Back in 2016, DreamWorks Animation released Trolls, a colorful and musically charged animated feature that was based off the Trolls dolls toy figures (created by Thomas Dam). Directed by Mike Mitchell and Walt Dohrn, the film, which starred the voices of Justin Timberlake, Anna Kendrick, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and host of several other celebrity / musical talents, followed two trolls (Princess Poppy and Branch) who go on a quest to save their village from destruction by the Bergens, creatures who eat Trolls to be happy. Altogether, Trolls was received with generally positive reviews from both critics and moviegoers; praising the animated film for its visual style, voice talent performances, and catchy musical numbers, including the feature’s signature song “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. In addition, Trolls grossed over $346 million at the box office against its $125 million production budget and received a nomination at Academy Award for Best Original song and won a Grammy Award for Best Song for Visual Media. The success of DreamWorks’s Trolls created several spin-off projects, including a 30-minute holiday special called Trolls Holiday as well as a 52-episode animated Netflix series titled Trolls: The Beat Goes On! This was then followed by the sequel animated film Trolls World Tour in 2020, which further continued the narrative of Poppy and Branch as they discover the vast world around them and musical themed regions of the land when Queen of the Rock tribe plans to overthrow the foreign music genres to unite the trolls’ clans under rock music. Timberlake and Kendrick returned to reprise their vocal roles in the movie as well as several new additions to make this sequel outing enjoyable, fun, and musically charged like its predecessor. However, due to the beginning effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Trolls World Tour was one of the first films of 2020 to receive a home release instead of a theatrical one, with the movie only making $46 million against its production budget of $110 million. Now, three years after the release of Trolls World Tour, DreamWorks Animation Studios (as well as Universal Pictures) and director Walt Dohrn release the third feature film installment in the franchise with the movie Troll Bands Together. Does this third outing of the colorful (and lyrical) world of trolls find merits and heart within its tale or is it a bland and forgetful animated jaunt that doesn’t amount to anything beyond its “boy band” premise?


Years ago, Branch (Justin Timberlake) was the youngest member of BroZone, a singing boy band musical group dedicated to spreading joy and swooning youthful hearts. The band of brothers became a global hit across the land with their music, but a sudden break-up ruined everything, finding John (Eric Andre), Clay (Kid Cudi), Floyd (Troy Sivan), and Spruce (Daveed Diggs) going their separate ways, leaving Branch brotherless. In present day, Branch is in love with Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick), but life interferes during such wonderful bliss, as Floyed is kidnapped by Velvet (Amy Schumer and Veneer (Andrew Rannells), two inept twins willing to do anything to become famous, locking the former boy band member in a diamond prison, which can only be opened with the fabled power of “perfect family harmony”. With the bad guys wanting talent, Branch just wants his brother back, with the troll, along with Poppy and Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson), launching a rescue effort to find his lost siblings with the hopes to reunite the group and save their family from Velvet and Veneer’s selfish ways.


Borrowing my lines from Trolls World Tour…. with myself being a fan of animated motion pictures (as I’m sure many of you know that already), I was definitely curious to see Trolls when it first came out back in 2016. Granted, I felt that DreamWorks Animation was on a little bit of the downward slope with some of its more mediocre releases, especially when compared to other animated studios releases out there (i.e. Disney, Pixar, and Illumination Entertainment). Trolls was an interesting, animated feature. To me, I liked the movie. It wasn’t perfect and didn’t outshine anything that something like a Disney movie could conjure up, but it was still quite entertaining and simplistic to digest. It was bright and colorful in its animation style, solidly and well-casted in its casting of talented individuals, and melodically catchy within its various songs. Seriously, “Can’t Stop the Feeling” was permanently engrained in my memory (in a good way) as I kept on always singing / humming it for the next few months. Plus, I did like the film’s main themes and story beats (again, easy to digest, but always fundamental wholesome). I didn’t catch the holiday special nor the Netflix TV series, but I did hear that they were adequately good as fun extensions of the original movie. As for Trolls World Tour, I actually did like it. Yes, it does have its problems with its narrative path and becomes more of the “Poppy and Branch” focus as well as too many side characters, but it was still delightfully fun, musically charged, and just an all-around solid animated film. Although, the financial success of the movie is quite debatable, especially since the movie never received a theatrical release to the beginning “lockdown” of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the film being one of the first “home release” due to the epidemic. In the end, Trolls (and its World Tour sequel) wasn’t the “be-all-to-end-all” animated movies of children’s entertainment, but it was still fun, entertaining, and super infectious with its musical pop song numbers; a great distraction for kids (the younger viewers out there) and a good family friendly flick for all.

Naturally, this brings me back around to talking about Trolls Band Together, a 2023 animated feature film and the follow-up sequel to 2020’s Trolls World Tour. Given the financial success that World Tour had during its home release run, the box office numbers really didn’t seem favorable for a return installment in this animated franchise. Yet, in a surprising turn of events, DreamWorks announced that a third Trolls movie was in the works and would have a theatrical release date of November 2023. After that, I really didn’t hear much about this project until the film’s movie trailer began to play in theaters during the “coming attractions” previews. From the preview alone, it looked like something from a Trolls movie, which featured a very simple narrative plot, colorful backgrounds, and very animated characters throughout. However, my biggest “hang up” about seeing this movie would definitely have to be the simplistic nature of the film, which featured a boy band premise of “getting the band back together” plot. It’s been done before, but doesn’t really seem like the strongest element, especially for a whole entire film. Still, the movie did look colorful, and I did like the voice talents attached to the project. Thus, I was interested in seeing Trolls Band Together, but I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from it. Still, I decided to see the movie during its opening day, alongside the release of The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. I decided to complete my review for Songbirds & Snakes before tackling this one, and, with that review completed, am ready to share what I thought of this third Trolls movie. And what did I think of it? Well, it was okay. Well, the movie does “keep up the appearances” of the franchise with a colorful animated jaunt, musical energy, and lively voice talents, Trolls Band Together shows the worn and frayed edges of the series in amongst a thinly sketched plot that doesn’t quite resonate as strong the previous installments. It’s not a bad movie or anything like that, but it’s definitely the weakest of the three features.

Trolls Band Together is co-directed by Walt Dohrn, whose previous directorial works include co-directing the first Trolls movie as well as solely directing its sequel Trolls World Tour, and Tim Heitz, whose previous works includes Trolls, Freebirds, and Monster vs. Aliens as a storyboard artist / animation department. Given their past efforts, with Dohrn as a director for the series and Heitz working on several DreamWorks projects, the pair of directors helm the feature with the same type of zany fun and quick zip throughout this latest outing. For the most part, this somewhat succeeds. There are plenty of faults and pitfalls that the movie can’t overcome (more on that below), but for the parts that do work…. the movie still retains the overall fun and charm of the previous Trolls features. There’s plenty to see and do throughout the movie, with the picture zipping from one scene to the next and keeps up the frenzy energy one would expect from a movie of this caliber. If there is one thing about Band Together gets right….it never stays in the same place twice and always on the move.

As to be expected, there are plenty of puns, quips, and references to the whole “boy band” title, which does play in the film’s comedy angle, poking fun at such things like “love” in their songs or having each member of BroZone being the classic boy band type. Dohrn and Heitz use that to the film’s advantage and helps build upon the boy band stance on everything about Branch’s connection to his brothers. It’s not clever or original, but definitely amusing to me. Speaking of the story, the movie is quite simply (as to be expected for its target audience), but still manages to its meaning with its thematic messages about family and connecting with those around you. Naturally, this brings up the whole “getting the band back together” scenario of what the movie heavily implies upon for majority of the feature, with Branch and Poppy setting out to find each of the members of BroZone and trying to get along to save their captive brother. Again, this scenario has been played out before (in a great host of other similar endeavors), but Dohrn and Heitz make the most of it and produces a fun and semi-entertaining production, which is filled with laughs and songs along the way.

Of the film’s music (or rather the musical songs) have always been the “bread and butter” of these productions, with Band Together showcasing that notion to the letter. Given the nature of movie’s story, Dohrn and Heitz heavily emphasis and borrowing influence on the music rolodex stylings of boy band melodies and vocal lyrics. Naturally, this is seeing in the BroZone’s scenes, with the musical variety of the songs having that nonsensical love melodrama of love, romance, young people together. It’s cliché, yes, but the somewhat works in the movie’s favor. Naturally, the “big hook” of the feature is having N’SYNC, the famous boy band of the early 2000s era, reunite for a song in the movie (Better Place), which does feel like them and is quite nice, speaking the mantra of the feature of “getting the band back together”. There is a “double edge” sword moniker when it comes to the musical songs in this movie, but I’ll touch more upon that in a few paragraphs below. In the end, while not the best and brightest from the franchise, Band Together still has some decent amount of distraction to keep some of its viewers invested, with Dohrn and Heitz keeping the feature / franchise decently alive with a colorful spectacle display and fun ride for young viewers out there.

For its presentation, Band Together still carries the same type of integral visual style of animation that its predecessor had and generates an explosion of color throughout the entire feature. The fictional world of Trolls has always been quite vivid and bright, with creative design layout of locations and character designs that often feel quite bizarre and wacky; something that is befitting a movie caliber like this. Band Together continues that trend and does it beautifully, with eye-popping colors and imaginatively design characters that make the feature feel like a glittering eye candy extravaganza. Thus, it goes without saying that the movie’s “behind the scenes” team, including Ruben Perez (production design), Kenard Pak (art direction), and the entire animator team for their efforts on the project that dazzles and delights within its color pallet world. Even some of the cinematography work is quite pleasing, creating (and generating) plenty of unique and dynamic shots to help provide some dramatic and cinematic shots throughout. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Theodore Shaprio, delivers some good quality kid friendly background music for the project that provides a solid musical composition in and out Band Together’s story and compliments the musical songs throughout the production.

Unfortunately, Band Together does suffer from some problematic areas, which do tend to make the film (as a whole) the weakest entry in the animated film franchise. How so? Well, for starters, the movie’s story is incredibly (and woefully) weak and choppy from the get-go. The script, which was penned by Elizabeth Tippet, seems very nonsensical through most of its story / plot, with the movie’s narrative feeling limp from the get-go. Yes, the whole “getting the band back together” angle works to a certain degree, but it’s presented in a rather generic and straightforward way that becomes bit too much “on the nose” on how Tippett wants to convey everything that happens. This, of course, means that the movie’s story is quite formulaic to the touch and feels quite shallow for the most part. Yes, there are lessoned to be learned about forgive past transgressions and learning to trust others, which are always good and universally fundamental for any age, but the script, more or less, is crammed with a lot of little micro stories and characters, which makes everything quite crammed in what it wants to say and tell about, yet feels empty with not enough time to fully develop such things. Even the first movie had a good story about the Trolls and Bergens (and how Branch and Poppy work together) as well as the second one, which showcased different styles of music Trolls (and how each one is different than the rest), but Band Together doesn’t resonate as strong as the previous installments.

This also doesn’t help the efforts made by Dohrn and Heitz, with the directors lazily “going through the motions” of trying to produce a kid’s movie. Yes, it hits enough beats to catchy and check marks all the box off the necessary list for an animated film, but nothing really about the movie seems remarkable and / or memorable. The main challenges feel weak, the obstacles for most of the characters are timid and lame, while the film’s directors don’t exactly make the feature “pop” to help elevate such blandness. Dohrn and Heitz do what they can with the material and try to energize the feature with the Trolls brand name moniker (colors and music), but everything is presented rather dull and lazy that it makes whole endeavor a commercial “cash grab” from them, from DreamWorks, and just the franchise. This, of course, also shows that the series franchise tag of the animated Trolls seems to be wearing thin and end its lifespan, which is a shame as the beginning showed great promise, which is disappointing.

Another problem is that the film’s musical songs that are played and how they don’t feel to generate the same type of memorable beats in the plot. While I do praise the feature for having some happy and upbeat tunes playing to play up some pop-covers, the problem is that they don’t feel earned and lack that integrated importance to the main plot. Of course, there are hints of some of the “boy band” style of flavoring, but it lacks the memorable punch like “True Colors” from the first film or even “Just Sing” from World Tour. In truth, Band Together’s songs, while bubblegum pop and recognizable, feel more like CD party soundtrack of popular tunes….and that’s not a good thing, lacking heart within its identity beyond Boy Band styling of flavor.

Lastly, as a minor problem and / or criticism towards the film is that many of the secondary / supporting characters from the previous Trolls movies are greatly pushed aside and are minimized (screen time) in this latest outing. Naturally, this comes at the expense of all the new characters that the movie throws into the mix and take up more of the spotlight in and around the film’s runtime, which certainly does cause some of the older side characters to be pushed aside. With maybe the exception of Tiny Diamond as well as Gristle and Bridget, the rest of the characters (i.e. Biggie, Cooper Guy Diamond, Satin and Chenille) are basically nonexistent in the movie and only make a few glorified cameo appearances, which (to me) just seems a bit odd and a bit wasteful, especially these characters played their “supporting” parts in the previous two installments.

The cast for Band Together is relatively good, with many of the acting talent involved (both old and new) bringing the right amount of frenetic energy and likeable charisma to this animated franchise. That being said, the characters themselves are, for the most part, undercooked, trending into the stereotypes and cliches with some, while retreading in a few areas that don’t exactly pan correctly. Leading the charge in the movie are the two main Troll characters Branch and Poppy, who are once again played by musician / actor Justin Timberlake and actress Anna Kendrick. Timberlake, who is known for his musical career (solo artist and a part of the boy band N’SYNC) as well as his acting roles in In Time, Palmer, and The Social Network, continues amass character roles throughout his career and provides plenty of energy in his portrayal of Branch in the Trolls film franchise. For this movie, the character of Branch gets a bit of an “upgrade” from his screen time in World Tour, with Band Together’s narrative taking more of an interest in him and placing him centerstage for most of the narrative, especially since he is part of the main plot this go around. For his part, Timberlake continues to play Branch with enough cynicism and one-liner zingers to make him amusing and compelling at the same time. In this film, he does give enough dramatic poise to reflect upon his relationship with his brothers, which does give him plenty of emotional heart, with Timberlake hitting all the right marks to make the character endearing. Plus, it’s great to see the character (as well as Timberlake) play up the whole “boy band” angle as well as uncovering more of Branch’s past. All in all, Timberlake’s Branch is good continuation to what was previously established, with Band Together giving the character a strong enough platform to steal the spotlight in the feature.

In a similar fashion, Kenderick, who is known for her roles in Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, and Twilight, continues to be quite infectious as the super hyper and “happy go lucky” Princess Poppy. Her joyfulness and exciting energy further make for such an enjoyable character to follow, especially how she accompanies Branch on his journey throughout the movie. Perhaps the greatest problem of Poppy in Band Together is that she doesn’t have much to do with the main plot, which is quite strange especially since she played an important role in the previous two Trolls movies. Poppy is still present in the story, but less of a secondary main character, with Branch taking more of the centerstage. There is a subplot that is introduced halfway through the movie’s runtime to make her importance in Band Together, but it seems quite half-baked and never fully materializes enough to make a lasting impact. Thus, Kenderick is still fantastic as Poppy, but her character in this film is rather bland.

That being said, one of the greatest strengths that the Trolls movies have is “back and forth” banter / relationship that both Poppy and Branch have with each other, with Timberlake and Kenderick having some good vocal chemistry with each other throughout the entire feature.

For the new characters (at least the principal supporting ones), the characters that make up BroZone, the “boy band”-esque Troll group, do play their parts in the movie’s narrative and definitely are integrated into that “getting the band back together” mantra in the plot. Of course, the acting talents involved in this group, including actor Eric Andre (The Eric Andre Show and Mitchells vs. the Machines) as Branch’s oldest brother / leading of the group John Dory, actor Daveed Diggs (Wonder and Hamilton) as Branch’s second oldest brother Spruce, singer / actor Kid Cudi (Don’t Look Up and X) as Branch’s third oldest brother Clay, and actor Troye Sivan (X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Boy Erased) as Branch’s fourth oldest brother Floyd. While the voice work is solid, the character themselves are quite “cookie cutter” in the stereotypical manner of Boy Band personas (i.e. the leader, the shy one, the young one, the heartthrob, etc.). Of course, this was mostly “by the design” to be part of the film’s gimmick, but the actual characterizations of the members of BroZone are only surface level and feel generic animated constructs with little depths, despite being a somewhat driving force in the feature’s narrative progression. The same can be said with the new character of Viva, Poppy’s long-lost sister, who is voiced by singer / actress Camila Cabello (Cinderella). The voice work by Cabello is quite good and showcases the same type of frenzy / energy that Kenndrick does with Poppy, but the character itself comes more than halfway throughout the movie and ends up being separate side story that doesn’t feel earned or warranted in Band Together. It just basically gives something for Poppy to contemplate in the feature and nothing else.

For the returning players (who have a larger supportive role in the movie), the character of Tiny Diamond, Guy baby glittery Hip-Hop Troll gets a lot more screen time than what he had in World Tour and becomes a main side character in Band Together and who is once again played by actor Kenan Thompson (Kenan & Kel and Good Burger) as well as the return of King Gristle of the Bergens and his newly married wife Bridget come back and are interwoven into the film’s plots (slightly), with actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad and Neighbors) and actress Zooey Deschanel (New Girl and Elf). Keenan’s Tiny Diamond is always a welcomed addition to this main group, especially since he is one of the only of the main side characters that comes back and plays a part in Band Together’s story, while it was nice to see both Gristle and Bridget back in a Trolls movie (who were absent in World Tour), with Mintz-Plasse and Deschanel feeling right at home in their Bergen characters. Although, their story in the film feels a bit “out of place” sometimes and almost could’ve been cut from the movie and made up into a short film (i.e. Gristle and Bridget’s Road Trip Adventure).

As for the film’s antagonist villains…. the characters of Velvet and Veneer, two Mount Rageon siblings who are wannabe popstar that plan to see the “musical essence” of BroZone to help their own singing vocals, are relatively okay, but more forgetful and unmemorable baddies. Of course, much like the majority of the cast, the voice talents of actress Amy Schumer (Trainwreck and I Feel Pretty) as Velvet and actor Andrew Rannells (The Prom and A Simple Favor) as Veneer are rock solid and definitely give their characters colorful personalities, but not quite enough to make them standout to be truly memorable. In fact, the characters of Velvet and Veneer are, for the most part, too goofy and too superfluous to be taking seriously…. even those they are vapid-like individuals who only care about fame and fortune. This, of course, comes with the territory of Band Together having a weak story, with even weaker bad guys that don’t quite measure up in the same way that Baranski’s Chef from the first Trolls feature was able to achieve as well as Bloom’s Queen Barab from World Tour. In the end, the main bad guys in Band Together are weaker, shallow, and utterly forgetful…much like their characters themselves.

Other players, including the musician duo artists Icona Pop (Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt) as conjoined twin Pop Trolls Satin and Chenille, actor Ron Funches (80 for Brady and Once Upon a Time in Venice) as one of the princes of the Funk Trolls named Cooper, musician artist Anderson .Paak as Cooper’s young twin brother / a prince of the Funk Trolls named Prince D, actor Kunal Nayyar (The Big Bang Theory and Ice Age: Continental Drift) as a glittery Pop Troll Guy Diamond, actor Chris Kirkpatrick (The Fairly Oddparents and Longshot) as Trickee, actor / TV personality RuPaul (RuPaul’s Drag Race and Chicago Party Aunt) as Miss Maxine, actor David Fynn (Am I Being Unreasonable? and The Mauritanian) as Biggie (replacing James Corden from the previous films), actor Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleaner and Like Family) as Biggie’s pet worm Mr. Dinkles, producer Felipe Vasquez (The Kill Room and Entropy) as Jerry, actor Dillion Francis (Cupid and Saints Row) as Kid Ritz, actress Kayla Melikian (Tig N’ Seek and Spidey and His Amazing Friends) as LaBreezey, actor Jakari Fraser (Ben is Back and Spidey and His Amazing Friends) as Windy, actress Zosia Mamet (Spartan and The Kids Are All Right) as Crimp, young actor Nick Kishiyama (Jessica’s Big Little World and Infinity Train) as Cove / Freddy, actor Titus Blake (Journey to America) as Rainy, and YouTube personality GloZell as the grandmother of Branch and his brothers Grandma Rosiepuff, make up the rest of the minor / supporting characters in the movie. Most of these characters in this group have limited screen-time, but the acting talent that plays them are solid across the board and do make the most of what they have to offer in the film.


To save his brother from captivity, Branch, joined by Poppy, must seek out his long-lost family siblings and reunite BroZone to find the “Perfect Family Harmony” in the movie Trolls Band Together. Directors Walt Dohrn and Tim Heitz’s latest film returns to the colorful (and musical) world of Trolls, with Branch and Poppy going off on another zany and lyrical adventure to discover the importance of working together and overcome personal challenges along the way. While the film’s visual presentation is still quite amazing to behold as well as the musical renditions throughout, and the solid voice acting across the board, the movie feels tiresome by stretching its narrative in a rather mundane way and never exactly “pops” the correct way beyond a lazy written script and overall weak premise. Personally, I thought that this movie was just okay, but more on the disappointing side of things. It’s definitely aimed at its target audience (i.e. the juice box crowd) correctly and gives enough of that colorful and zippiness that I was definitely expecting from a Trolls film, but it definitely felt like a subpar / middling endeavor in this franchise, with a weaker element (story and characters) and not much to the project in comparison to the previous installments. Thus, recommendation for this movie is “rent it” as I’m sure it will be a perfect viewing experience for a family movie night, but doesn’t have the lasting staying power to watch it repeatedly…. unless just to occupy a child’s attention for a good hour and half. That being said, the two other Trolls movies are far better and have a more enjoyable (and entertaining) viewing experience than this one. Like World Tour, the conclusion of Band Together isn’t quite a definitive conclusion ending to the franchise, with the possibility sequel endeavor left open ended. I personally don’t think that the series needs another Trolls movie. However, if one does materialize, I do hope that it tweaks the narrative more to give more of a wholesome projection than this “cash grab” feature. In the end, Trolls Band Together is somewhat adequate for what it is…. a colorful and musical distraction, but ends up, more or less, a weaker entry in the series that never goes anywhere and just feels like a thinly sketched and exhausting animated outing.

3.0 Out of 5 (Rent It)


Released On: November 17th, 2023
Reviewed On: December 14th, 2023

Trolls Band Together  is 92 minutes long and is rated PG for some mild rude and suggestive humor

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