I’ve been asked a lot in recent weeks why I love the Trolls franchise so much. The reasons are pretty simple, actually. Beyond the fact that each rainbow-colored jukebox spectacle looks like it sprang forth fully formed from a sparkle pony’s fever dream, it’s that they remain delightfully light on message. Don’t get me wrong; each film has something to teach the kiddies about family, loyalty, and being true to oneself so you can dance like nobody’s watchin’. But they don’t beat you over the head with it. They’d much rather assault you with a mix of earworm-worthy tracks that’ll have you boppin’ along for days on end.
Trolls Band Together fits right in with its two predecessors in that it puts the spotlight on a particular style of music. And I’ll just say right now, if you ain’t into ’90s boy bands, this shit ain’t for you! It’s appropriate that this final (???) chapter of the story spotlights the frosted tips and male harmonizing of the era, as it gives star Justin Timberlake a bit more of the spotlight. He returns as Branch, who continues to be a bit of a wet blanket, especially when compared to his friend-turned-girlfriend, the infinitely upbeat and perky queen of the trolls, Poppy, voiced by Anna Kendrick. So, remember when I said these movies were about family? Well, this is the first Trolls movie that takes a Dominic Toretto view of the idea, because there are long-lost kin popping up everywhere.
It turns out that Branch was once part of a mega-popular boy band, BroZone, along with his four brothers. A disastrous stage performance, in which the eldest bro, John Dory (Eric Andre) pushed them too hard to hit the perfect note. The bros went their separate ways after that humiliating show, but now one of them, Floyd (Troye Sivan) has been kidnapped by Velvet and Veneer (Amy Schumer and Andrew Rannells), a talentless brother/sister act who have become overnight sensations by stealing the troll’s innate musical abilities. The only way to save him? For the bros to get back together and, you guessed it, hit the perfect note to free Floyd from his diamond prison.
So yeah, this is probably the most insane Trolls movie yet and its fans will appreciate everything about that. In the midst of this weird rescue mission, there’s also time for a detour at a haunted amusement park, where Poppy learns of her own extended family tree. And we can’t forget the goblin-like Bergens, Poppy’s best friend Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) and Gristle Jr. (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who are trying to plan their nuptials and honeymoon with all of this chaos surrounding them. Just wait until you see Bridget’s helium balloon wedding dress, or the loopy Yellow Submarine-inspired animation sequences that are like you stumbled into an acid trip.
Trolls Band Together unabashedly exists just to unleash a steady diet of boy band tracks and jokes about that dubious musical era. What I’ve also appreciated about these films is that they rarely stick to any single thing, and often delve into more eclectic jams. KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Keep It Comin’ Love” drives an upbeat party scene (of which there are many, this is Trolls after all!), while Zosia Mamet, playing V & V’s beleaguered moppy-haired assistant Crimp, has a funny rendition of Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”. While the opening mix is a bit clunky, Timberlake, who also serves the film’s music producer, settles in and even reunites his old band N’SYNC for what feels like his farewell to the franchise. If that’s true, I have no doubt that Trolls will continue on in some form, because these movies can’t possibly end until we see Branch and Poppy dancing the night away at their own wedding reception. Imagine how kooky those closing credits will be.
Trolls Band Together opens in theaters on November 17th.