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Animation Is Film Festival: Trolls Band Together Review

November 17, 2023 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Trolls Band Together - still 1 Image Credit: DreamWorks Animation
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Animation Is Film Festival: Trolls Band Together Review  

Directed By: Walt Dohrn and Tim Heitz
Written By: Elizabeth Tippet; Based on the Goodluck Trolls created by Thomas Dam
Runtime: 92 minutes
MPA Rating: Rated PG for some mild rude and suggestive humor.

Justin Timberlake – Branch
Anna Kendrick – Queen Poppy
Eric André – John Dory
Troye Sivan – Floyd
Daveed Diggs – Spruce/Bruce
Kid Cudi – Clay
Kenan Thompson – Tiny Diamond
Camila Cabello – Viva
Amy Schumer – Velvet
Andrew Rannells – Veneer
Zooey Deschanel – Queen Bridget
Christopher Mintz-Plasse – King Gristle
Zosia Mamet – Crimp
Ron Funches – Cooper

DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls film franchise is back in theaters with its third entry, Trolls Band Together. While the film has already been released in Europe, it received an early stateside screening this month, courtesy of the Animation Is Film Festival. Trolls is by no means an overachieving sequel or animated masterpiece, but it amounts to a mildly amusing, harmless CG-animated family affair.

Expanding on the backstory of Branch (Timberlake), the prologue reveals that Branch, in his youth, was part of a world-famous boy band called Brozone. However, the group suffers a crushing falling out since the eldest brother John Dory (André) is an overbearing control freak. Baby Branch is left all alone with his grandmother, and he never forgives his brothers for abandoning him years ago. John returns since King Gristle (Mintz-Plasse) and Queen Bridget (Deschanel) are about to be wed, and he needs his baby bro’s help. While Branch is reluctant to help his older brother, he’s persuaded to rejoin the group upon learning that his other older brother, Floyd (Sivan), has been kidnapped by two talentless musical pop stars, Velvet (Schumer) and Veneer (Rannells). They’ve imprisoned poor Floyd in a diamond perfume bottle, and the only way to liberate their brother is to get the band back together so they can create the perfect family harmony pitch. Poppy is along for the ride as wild jukebox musical high jinks ensue.

Although Trolls Band Together varies wildly between being incredibly hyperactive and almost intolerably vapid, Walt Dohrn and Tim Heitz’s story and character do have an infectious charm. All of the characters are fairly cute and likable. Tiny Diamond (Thompson) provides the film’s best laughs with his more pointed adult-centric jokes.

Elizabeth Tippet’s script follows a fairly predictable path. Branch and Poppy join John on a road trip to reassemble Brozone, while Floyd is a helpless prisoner to the machinations of Velvet and Veneer. They use his diamond perfume bottle prison to suck out his musical talent and steal it for themselves. Tippet’s script is rudimentary enough so that young kids can follow along and have fun, but she does pepper in a generous helping of humor aimed more at the adults who are watching the film with their brood.

Granted, most of the jokes are dad-level humor and puns referencing classic boy bands, but even dad jokes can have their charm. Timberlake playing around with his own history as a boy band singer is also relatively amusing. The songs, while unoriginal, are at least competently performed by the voice cast.

While Trolls Band Together is primarily a story about Branch reuniting with his estranged family, Poppy is given a subplot in the form of her family issues. She discovers she’s had a long-lost missing sister, Viva, portrayed here by Camilla Cabello. The setup for their drama is interesting, but the directors don’t do very much with the subplot. Their conflict is resolved all too easily. Similarly, the film mishandles the parallels between Brozone and the Velvet and Veneer siblings. John Dory poisons his own family against him with his overbearing, controlling attitude, much like how Velvet mistreats her little brother Veneer. There could have been a stronger recognition by John over how his attitude alienated his own family.

Directors Walt Dohrn and Tim Heitz excel in showcasing the film’s lavish fantasy world. The world of Trolls is lush and elaborate. All of the objects give the appearance of little prize toy knick-knacks from a gaming arcade. For example, the food looks like plastic. The visual style offers the impression that the world is a childlike imagination unleashed and having fun in a giant playground of toys. The new characters Velvet and Veneer have a 1930s early animation design quality and look appealing.

Trolls Band Together will keep kids entertained and engaged for an hour-and-a-half. Some parents might even enjoy some of the jokes, especially the ones who grew up as massive fans of the pop music and boy band scene of the late 90s and early 2000s. While the story lacks depth, it’s fairly harmless, mildly amusing entertainment.

The final score: review Average
The 411
Trolls Band Together is altogether okay. It has its amusing jokes and moments. Characters provide some decent laughs at best, and they are mildly annoying at their worst. The script presents some interesting subplots that could've provided more genuine bittersweet drama as Branch and Poppy look to restore their broken family units. Directors Dohrn and Heitz also do well in creating an imaginative fantasy world that's fun to watch with each passing sequence.