As someone who’s childless and pushing a certain age bracket, on the surface it would seem as if the Trolls films shouldn’t necessarily appeal to me. But within their candy-coated, unicorn fever dream-like aesthetic are surprisingly well-aimed jokes of maturity and, as an unashamed pop music enthusiast, a far-too-enjoyable soundtrack. Children will absolutely lap this type of rainbow fluff up, and, thankfully, the messages extended here are lighter than some other animated fare, so, as much as they are learning of the value of friendship and staying true to one’s self, they’re not being preached to – and neither are you.
The Trolls films are more designed to pack in as many pop hits as possible to get you enjoying the airy narrative, and for Trolls Band Together it’s staying very much on brand with the first two films – 2016’s Trolls and 2020’s Trolls World Tour – only this time with a distinct 90s/2000s boyband-inspired soundtrack to groove things along at a rather breakneck pace; if you aren’t in sync with NSYNC (or the Backstreet Boys, or One Direction, or any of those similarly-packaged bands) this may not be the Trolls trip for you.
Putting such an emphasis on boybands allows Trolls‘ co-lead and music supervisor Justin Timberlake something of a spotlight here, with his formerly cranky Branch revealing his own boyband past as part of BroZone, a family quintet who, at one stage, had crowds the (Troll) world over in a tizzy with their perfect harmonies. Not only do we learn why Branch was such a wet blanket – and in comparison to the impossibly energetic Poppy (voiced once again with perfect perkiness by Anna Kendrick) he’s still a little soggy – but that he had a family of his own, and after a disastrous live performance that saw them fail to hit the “perfect note”, they disbanded and went their separate ways.
It goes without saying that some dastardly, nonsensical plan is afoot, and it will require BroZone to come together once more, so when Floyd (Australian popstar Troye Sivan) is kidnapped – he was “the sensitive one” of the group – Branch and his estranged brothers, John Dory (Eric Andre), Clay (Kid Cudi) and Spruce (Daveed Digs), put their differences aside and set out on a rescue mission that, naturally, takes them through a multitude of differing lands, meeting eclectic characters along the way.
The absolute insanity of the main plot point is something only an animated film can get away with, and it’s to your benefit as an audience member if you just go along with what Elizabeth Tippet‘s script has conjured, with the main driving force coming from Floyd’s capture by demented twins Velvet and Veneer (Amy Schumer and Andrew Rennells, respectively), a duo of talentless popstars who have become overnight sensations due to their stealing of Floyd’s talent. He’s encased in a tiny diamond prison, that tiny diamond is padded into the suits the twins wear, and they essentially inhale his talent whenever they need to perform. As I said, just go along with it.
If you haven’t gathered, the “perfect note” can shatter such a surface as the diamond Floyd is imprisoned in, so Branch and his brothers need to perfect as such – so it’s a good thing they have a slick 92 minutes to do so. If all of that wasn’t bonkers enough, we have the recently married Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) and Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Poppy’s besties goblin-like Bergens, scurrying around on their honeymoon, and Poppy herself has a family reunion of sorts with a relative she never knew of, Vida (Camila Cabello).
Throughout it all, of course, is the music. The boyband ingredient makes way for plenty of inspired tracks and well-timed jokes about the era itself; and an extension of the humour is the fact that there’s a multitude of incredibly funny adult-aimed jokes peppered throughout, including a trippy Yellow Submarine-inspired animated sequence that’s akin to going on an acid trip. At a mile-a-minute, Trolls Band Together rarely allows a moment to catch your breath, but when it’s having so much fun, I don’t really think anyone will complain as it seems designed for the very consumers who can’t possibly listen to a song that goes over 3 minutes.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Trolls Band Together is screening in Australian theatres from November 30th, 2023.