The Self-Effacing Boy Band Nonsense of Trolls Band Together Is Fun Enough

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The Self-Effacing Boy Band Nonsense of Trolls Band Together Is Fun Enough

When my nine-year-old found out that he couldn’t attend the early showing of Trolls Band Together with me because he had a soccer game, he looked at me very seriously and said, “That’s okay mom. I know how important this movie is to you.”

And, incredibly, an animated movie about little pink and blue creatures is unbelievably important—not just to me but to everyone who has ever loved a boy band. The news that NSYNC would have their first single in 20 years as part of the next Trolls movie created a frenzy. Would they tour? Would there be a whole new album? Why is the new song credited as being by “NSYNC and Justin Timberlake?” What does it all mean? So far, it’s only meant the new song “Better Place,” which is, obviously, an amazing song and I will not hear anything to the contrary. Thank you for your cooperation during this extremely sensitive time.

And so it is within this context we revisit the Trolls world for a third time. 

Trolls Band Together opens with the wedding of Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) and King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Things are going smoothly until Branch’s (Timberlake) long lost brother John Dory (Eric André) crashes the soiree. He needs Branch’s help to rescue their brother Floyd (Troye Sivan) who is being held captive by mega popstars Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells). Velvet and Veneer are sucking Floyd’s talent out of him, enabling them to sound amazing. The only thing that will save Floyd is the perfect family harmony. 

So Branch, Floyd and Poppy (Anna Kendrick) set off to find the other brothers Bruce (Daveed Diggs) and Clay (Kid Cudi). Along the way, Poppy discovers that she also has a long-lost sister, Viva (Camila Cabello). Let’s pause now to ponder if any of this makes any sense at all. Is it possible that Branch was once known as Bitty B and performed wearing a diaper as a member of the singing group BroZone? Is it credible that this little tidbit never came up in the first two movies? What are the odds that Poppy would also have a sibling she never knew about? This is where I remind you that probably no one is looking to Trolls Band Together for character integrity and strict adherence to the Trolls world mythology.

No, we are here to have fun and, for the most part, this 91-minute movie provides just that. Sure the entire plot of Trolls Band Together and the movie’s best jokes are revealed in the trailer. But the movie’s target audience is the same audience that can watch Frozen 20 times. They certainly aren’t going to mind that they already know what is going to happen. 

And so much fun is had at the expense of boy bands, from the typecasting of being “the sensitive one,” “the baby,” “the heartthrob” or “the fun one,” to the fashion choices and hair styles (“It was an era!” Branch says). And there is a lot of name-checking. 

“We’ve gone from boys to men and now there’s only one direction for us to go—the backstreets,” Floyd says. There are jokes about making a “desperate Christmas album.” In addition to “Better Place” (which again, I will remind you, is an absolutely fantastic song), the movie features “Candy Girl” from New Edition, “The Right Stuff” from NKOTB and “I Want You Back” from NSYNC. The soundtrack has always been the strongest part of the Trolls movies and Band Together doesn’t disappoint. 

There are some more adult-oriented jokes that will most likely go over children’s heads. Some are fun. “How was school today?” a parent asks. “Stop attacking me!” the teenager responds. Others, like the analogy that ring pops are like a drug, are unnecessary. 

Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson) remains a true highlight. Anyone who has ever watched Thompson on Saturday Night Live knows that he can spin humor from even the most mundane material. He does that here with aplomb. And maybe no one is having more fun than Poehler and Rannells. Velvet and Veneer offer up a condemnation of the fickle pop-star landscape that doesn’t always favor or reward actual talent. “I want to be famous but I don’t want to work for it,” Velvet laments.

And you have to admire the genius move of leaning into Timberlake’s boy band past and credit Timberlake for embracing it. I have to think it will open up the movie to a whole new audience, and put the Trolls trilogy in a better place.

Director: Walt Dohrn (co-director Tim Heitz)
Writers: Elizabeth Tippet
Starring: Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Eric André, Kid Cudi, Daveed Diggs, Andrew Rannells, Amy Schumer, Troye Sivan, Kenan Thompson, Camila Cabello, Zooey Deschanel, Zosia Mamet, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Ron Funches, Caroline Hjelt, Aino Jawo, Kunal Nayyar, Anderson Paak
Release Date: November 17, 2023

Amy Amatangelo, the TV Gal®, is a Boston-based freelance writer and a member of the Television Critics Association. She wasn’t allowed to watch much TV as a child and now her parents have to live with this as her career. You can follow her on Twitter (@AmyTVGal).

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