This pop star nostalgic sequel cuts its hair too short.
“Trolls Band Together” is supposed to serve as a throwback for Justin Timberlake, back when he was part of the boy band N*Sync until 2002. Then finally, after all these years, they reunite for a cameo and a new song “Better Place,” which is poised to bring die hard fans listening to the song on YouTube or iTunes or even seeing the movie. And I wouldn’t blame them.
This is the third film in Dreamworks Animation franchise about singing trolls with furry up-combed hair and medleys of hit songs. The first film I didn’t think had the kind of high spirits it should have been given. The second film “Trolls World Tour” I thought was a considerable improvement and was able to expand its horizons with different trolls of different music genres. And the third film, which I’m now discussing, has the right kind of boy band nostalgia and colorful new characters, but it doesn’t take the kind of risks to expand on such a fuzzy and musical world the way the last film did. It basically relies on some jokes about pink eye, diapers, and the baby hip hop troll Tiny Diamond (voiced by Kenan Thompson) wanting to be an adult with the fake I.D “Adulty McManface.”
The former grumpy troll Branch (voiced by Timberlake) used to be the baby, known as Bitty B, in his brother’s boy band Brozone. They consist of the leader John Dory (voiced by Eric Andre), the heartthrob Spruce (voiced by Daveed Diggs), the fun boy Clay (voiced by Kid Cudi), and the sensitive one Floyd (voiced by Troy Sivan). They all go their separate ways, because they couldn’t form the perfect melody for their song, and now, Branch wants to put everything behind him. That is until John comes back into his life, informing him that Floyd has been abducted by two evil pop star siblings, Velvet (voiced by Amy Schumer) and Veneer (voiced by Andrew Rannells), who gain their singings voices by sucking out his magic.
As far as I’m concerned, this franchise likes to make new characters in different forms. The villains look like bendable figures with Max Fleischer eyes, while a new breed of vacationers look like Dr. Seuss puppets. In retrospects, I think these puppet people look cute and have some likability. We just don’t need their pink eye jokes. And John has a ride in the form of an armadillo bus (or whatever the Hell that thing is), which not only reminds us of the Catbus from “My Neighbor Totoro,” but gives his passengers a “Yellow Submarine” hyper speed trip.
In a season when A24’s first musical “Dicks: The Musical” pokes fun at siblings reuniting for the first time since birth, Branch’s girlfriend Poppy (voiced by Anna Kendrick) meets her long-lost sister Viva (voiced by Camilla Cabello), who runs a society inside an old mini golf course belonging to their former enemies-the Bergens-and has the kind of X factor to give awesome hairstyles. Cabello, who entertained us in “Cinderella,” makes her animation debut with a delightful vibe, the kind that Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson displayed in “Dicks.” And I shouldn’t even be talking about a dirty comedy in a review about a children’s film. Sorry, mommy and daddy.
I admit that animation is my favorite genre, because it can not only open our eyes to the infinite possibilities, but it can also be used as escapism from the harsh realities in life. “Trolls Band Together” has the kind of exuberance to keep kids entertained, while parents may look at their watches more or less. There may be Generation Y parents who grew up on N*Sync and may be excited to hear some new music from them for the first time in two decades. I’m very excited in that notion, but I think its story needed to broaden its horizons.
You also have a wedding scene between the Bergen youngsters-King Gristle (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Bridget (voiced by Zooey Deschanel)-with the kid friendly bachelor party hangovers. But you also have the cynicism about Branch and Poppy one day getting married, and each pretending it would be weird. Clearly, they’re both in love and they finally share a kiss. What more do they need to know?
On a recent scale of Dreamworks Animation entries, “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish” took the title character to new heights, while “Ruby Gillman: Teenage Kraken” sunk to the bottom of the sea with its formulas and spoiler alerts. “Trolls Band Together” suffers from too many split ends.