Trolls Band Together

Trolls Band Together: The Same Old Song

Franchise sings a familiar tune, but how many young viewers recognize it?

The Trolls franchise has ridden the colourful wave of musical nostalgia to great success over the past seven years. Weaving chart-topping hits into the fabric of its family friendly messaging, the updated version of Danish toymaker Thomas Dam’s Good Luck Trolls gives new life to iconic songs.

However, even the most popular tunes begin to lose their appeal the more one hears them. Such is the case with Trolls Band Together, a film that is essentially one big tribute to the dominant boy bands of the late ’80s and ’90s, but has little to say about the bands it celebrates.

While a film like Turning Red uses the fictional boy band 4*Town to emphasize both Mei Lee’s hormonal changes and define her bond with her close friends, Trolls reduces its central harmonizing group to a product. Gleefully pointing out the manufactured formula of groups being made from distinct personalities, something that the members of the fictional BroZone ultimately rebel against, the film is more interested in referencing bands rather than highlighting what made them popular in the first place.

Directors Walt Dohrn and Tim Heitz do not even commit to making the film’s soundtrack a cavalcade of boy band hits. Instead, hits from the likes of NSYNC and Bell Biv DeVoe are mixed in with a smorgasbord of songs ranging from Lizzo to The Bee Gees to Irena Cara and everything in between. Opting to provide a little something for everyone, it is a wonder why the film decided to focus on boy bands in the first place.

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Similar to admiring an album cover, rather than take the record out of its sleeve to understand its construction, Trolls Band Together lacks curiosity in the topics it raises. Whether broaching the modern obsession with fame, long lost siblings, the paralyzing nature of fear, or the divisiveness that’s inspired by the quest to protect others, all themes are handled with a candy-coloured shallowness.

The film’s reluctance to explore anything with depth is most obvious in the central road trip plot. Shifting the focus this time to Branch (Justin Timberlake), the story revolves around the former BroZone member’s quest to save his brother Floyd (Troye Sivan) from the clutches of pop duo Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veener (Andrew Rannells). Privileged siblings who crave fame without wanting to do the hard work, the pair extracts Floyd’s magical troll essence to enhance their own vocals–a crime that one character in the film notes is worse than lip-syncing.

With Floyd trapped in a diamond perfume bottle that can only be broken with the “perfect harmony,” a feat that few groups have achieved, it is up to Branch and his other brothers to put their differences aside if they hope to save him. Of course, getting the band back together is easier said than done. The main reason that BroZone broke up after its first show was due to the pressure that eldest brother and lead singer John Dory (Eric André) put on them to hit the elusive harmony.

As Branch and John Dory journey to find their estrange brothers – heartthrob Spruce (Daveed Diggs), fun guy Clay (Kid Cudi) – their fellow travelers Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) and Tiny Diamond (Kenan Thompson) have their own issues to deal with. Longing for a sibling, Queen Poppy is surprised to discover that she has a sister, Viva (Camila Cabello), that she never knew about. While Poppy and Branch deal with family drama, one-month-old Tiny Diamond attempts to shed his baby ways and enter adulthood.

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While Tiny Diamond provides the film with its best comedic moments, including a running gag about the addictive nature of Ring Pop candy, nothing in the film resonates on a meaningful level. For all the talk about sacrifice, the film is reluctant to shed its own formula for something that is bold and memorable. The plot is merely a vessel to set up an underwhelming NSYNC musical reunion.

Trolls Band Together may hold a fondness for the boy bands of the past, but such nostalgia means nothing to youngsters who never knew the groups being praised in the first place. While young kids will no doubt enjoy the film, there is little that will keep adults’ attention. An overly manufactured and hollow work, it might be time for these trolls to get off the stage.

Trolls Band Together opens in theatres on Nov. 17.



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