Trolls Band Together (aka Trolls 3) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
The Trolls movie seems like the easiest sell for kids as a candy-coated and glitter-soaked musical fest of animation is more colorful than meaningful. For adults, however, it seems like a harder franchise to become engrossed in if you’re not already sugar-crazed on the allure or keen on the jukebox soundtrack. Thankfully, these films have gotten progressively better. The first Trolls movie was a relatively simple story of differences. The second film was all about genre diversity among the musical troll tribes. The third film, Band Together, seems to find its groove in the classic band reunion tour adventure formula. It works so well here that this is the first Troll entry I found the most tolerable.
More intrigue is added to this entry as it expands on the origins of the grumpy-turned-less-grumpy troll Branch (Justin Timberlake). His early days being in a boyband are revealed, hitting a bit close to home for Timberlake’s background in this particular medium. After having split up when the band tried and failed to perform the ultimate move on stage, it’s a life that Branch would rather be put behind him. That all changes when his former band leader, John Dory (Eric Andre), visits and informs him about a kidnapped band member. Fascinated by this unearthed part of Branch’s past is his best girl, Poppy (Anna Kendrick), who may or may not have wedding intentions on the horizon. Since the band is literally Branch’s brothers, she figures now is a good time to meet the family.
The villains for this entry are thankfully not some misunderstood species or tribe but a pair of egotistical and privileged rich kids trying to steal talent. The brother/sister duo of Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells) are two gangly-looking creatures that literally suck the singing talent right out of the boyband trolls they capture. They’re played up beautifully in that diva-driven attitude of acting like they deserve all this stolen talent. They also have some decent satire, as when Velvet tries to stress that they grew up on mean streets, only for Veneer to correct her that their parents were dentists and they grew up in the suburbs with every luxury afforded to them.
The adventure itself is pretty neat. The travels take the Trolls to some interesting places with different types of creatures. Vacation Island is a strong island for being a community of what it would look like Dr. Suess's characters and Muppets fused together. The results are so incredibly mesmerizing and fun that it’s great the animation style is bold enough to experiment with this type of design in clever ways. Later in the adventure, Poppy will also run across her own family in the form of her long-lost sister, Viva (Camila Cabello). The two of them hit it off well and have a fair bit of feuding regarding security and trust. For the most part, though, they get along instantly for sharing the same level of eccentric obsessions with candy and braiding hair.
I’ll give the film credit because it switches up the predictable jukebox soundtrack a little. There are many familiar songs, but many are diced up into fast-paced remixes that jump from chart-topper to chart-topper. Despite the big payoff in the final scene on working the Backstreet Boys back into the mix, it comes with a tiresome pun-filled introduction of trying to work previous bands into the dialogue. Had this type of commentary been a running gag throughout the film, it would’ve been funnier, but it just comes off as too little too late.
Trolls Band Together is not bad for an animated franchise that has been lukewarm at best. It is way more clever than the previous Trolls movies; the soundtrack is sufficiently distinct, and the animation does venture into some imaginative areas. It doesn’t exactly have much beyond the spectacle, but it doesn’t exactly disappoint in that department, especially with some fairly cunning gags in visuals and dialogue. Kids will probably gobble this type of film up with a spoon, but I suspect that parents might not have to grin and bear as much, considering the solid music numbers and earnest character arcs almost make up for the cavity-inducing sugar this film comes bloated with. It’s fine for the family, but, much like candy, make it a sometimes-movie.