Trolls Band Together (2023, dir. Walt Dohrn)

by | Oct 21, 2023

Certificate: U

Running Time: 91 mins

UK Distributor: Universal Pictures

UK Release Date: 20 October 2023

WHO’S IN TROLLS BAND TOGETHER?

Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, Camila Cabello, Eric André, Kid Cudi, Troye Sivan, Daveed Diggs, Amy Schumer, Andrew Rannells, Zosia Mamet, RuPaul, Zooey Deschanel, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Icona Pop, Anderson .Paak, Ron Funches, Kenan Thompson, Kunal Nayyar, Walt Dohrn

WHO’S BEHIND THE CAMERA?

Walt Dohrn (director), Jonathan Aibel, Glenn Berger and Elizabeth Tippet (writers), Gina Shay (producer), Theodore Shapiro (composer), Nick Fletcher (editor)

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Branch (Timberlake) must reunite with his former boy band brothers…

WHAT ARE MY THOUGHTS ON TROLLS BAND TOGETHER?

Of all the toy lines that have gotten their own movie, the Good Luck Trolls have perhaps had the weirdest shop-to-screen transition. Could you honestly look at one of those ugly little figurines with wild hair, and be able to tell that they would go on to inspire a multi-coloured surrealist musical series of films, one that has an impressive number of needle-drops to popular songs that put even Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! to shame? Somebody at DreamWorks Animation clearly did, and it obviously paid off for it is now one of the company’s most popular franchises, even if the product itself is far, far removed from the original toy it was inspired by.

However, even for a franchise that has fully embraced its weirdness, Trolls Band Together is an utter fever dream of a movie, filled with such an assortment of bizarre visuals and concepts that to describe some of it to anyone over the age of seven would be to sound like a raving lunatic. I can’t exactly say that I was annoyed, though, because it is so unapologetically bonkers at times that I couldn’t help but respect some of the strange choices made here.

Set a short while after the events of the last Trolls movie, this one opens with the revelation that Branch (Justin Timberlake), the stick-in-the-mud Troll who’s now the boyfriend of Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick), was once the (literal) baby member of BroZone, a popular boy-band made up of brothers John Dory (Eric André), Clay (Kid Cudi), Spruce (Daveed Diggs) and Floyd (Troye Sivan), who have all since gone their separate ways. One day, John Dory unexpectedly shows up to ask Branch for help: it turns out that Floyd has been kidnapped by vapid popstar siblings Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells), who are stealing Floyd’s talent to become famous, and the only thing that can free their brother is for BroZone to reunite and perform the perfect medley. So begins, naturally, a road trip with Branch, Poppy, John Dory and even Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson) in a live armadillo bus to reunite the band members before it’s too late.

Like the other movies in this franchise, Trolls Band Together relies on a logic-free narrative where just about anything can happen without rhyme or reason. Want examples? There’s a wedding where the bride enters with a balloon dress that pops to reveal roller skates underneath; characters will find out about long-lost siblings that should have been at least mentioned in other movies; the villains, who have the same plan as the Monstars in Space Jam, have an abused assistant who’s literally a mop head; there are fuzzy Muppet-like creatures that live on a resort island where the beach balls come alive and start singing; and that’s not even describing half of it.

The point is that all of this, and more, happens in this movie, and they’re often just as random as I’ve arranged them in that previous sentence. Even more so than its predecessors, this film revels in its nonsense to a point of utter madness, where it’s so relentlessly fast-paced that you hardly have a moment to stop and take in all the insanity, with the overall feeling being as though you did a whole lot of shrooms and chugged an entire litre of booze before sitting down to watch the mayhem.

And yet, I can’t really be that annoyed by this movie, or any of the other Trolls movies for that matter. Sure, watching these films (especially this one) is like babysitting a kid who’s on the wildest of sugar rushes and won’t stop bouncing off the walls, which can certainly get tiresome after a little while, but when it’s displaying a visual style that is vividly creative and fascinatingly strange, it at least softens the blow until this metaphorical kid finally crashes out.

The designs of this world are fascinating, from this futuristic Vegas-like city where gravity can be turned on and off at will, to an idyllic resort island where the surrounding water is made up of tiny beads (it even looks the exact same as it does on the postcard, including the text that actually hovers above the island, which is honestly a rather funny detail). The same goes for the way some of its characters are designed, including these villains who look like stick-figured Max Fleischer cartoons, and the Trolls themselves with hair and textures that are wild in both theory and nature.

As for the plot (a term used lightly, for it is hardly the first thing on its mind), it’s the typical “let’s get the band back together” formula, with all the petty arguments and stark differences in members’ behaviour and looks – they even do the whole thing where one of them used to have a six-pack but now has a larger build, but I appreciate that they never make any jokes about their body size in this film – that you’d expect to see.

Within the context of a Trolls film, though, it’s mostly just an excuse to bust out plenty of boy band covers on the soundtrack, and to also reunite Timberlake with his former NSYNC bandmates for an all-but fourth wall-breaking epilogue (which makes one wonder if the supporting roles of these other band members originally meant for Lance Bass, Joey Fatone et al, but were deemed to not be famous enough for big parts in a DreamWorks film, hence why Eric André, Daveed Diggs etc were cast instead). Beyond that, the characters are fine, there are some amusing moments of humour, and little kids will enjoy it perfectly fine.

Adults, though, will find themselves in for a fascinatingly weird ride that they won’t be sure is merely stylish or if the shrooms are finally starting to kick in.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Trolls Band Together is as fascinatingly weird as its predecessors, perhaps even more so with its overabundance of strange designs and nonsensical plotting, which kids can enjoy perfectly fine, but adults will feel like they’ve taken far too many hallucinogens as they try to comprehend the madness.

Three out of five stars

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