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‘Trolls Band Together’ review: Justin Timberlake stands out

When DreamWorks’ original “Trolls” movie was released in 2016, it wasn’t immediately clear that the studio would launch a musical series. The rainbow-bright computer-animated feature boasted a sparkling soundtrack and Justin Timberlake’s gruff, gray-skinned Branch voice, but that wasn’t what the sequel (until “Trolls World Tour” was released straight to streaming during the pandemic) had. the series adopted a Top 40 attitude. Now, having survived that film’s rock apocalypse, the epic returns to explore the backstory of Branch, the teenage member of boy band BroZone, in the zero-calorie sugar-high “Trolls Band Together.”

If you’re wondering why this is the first time you hear about Branch performing arena concerts as the once-diaper-clad “Baby B” with his older brothers Floyd (Troye Sivan), Spruce (Daveed Diggs), Clay (Kid Cudi) and John Dory (Eric André). , imagine what his girlfriend Queen Poppy (Anna Kendrick) thinks about this news. He’s a huge BroZone fan and rattles off a list of song titles that sound the same (Timberlake clearly has a sense of humor about early 2000s musicals and hairstyles). Moreover, Poppy had always wanted a sibling, and when John Dory showed up on a mission to save Floyd years after the band’s breakup, she told Branch, “A brother is a friend who can never leave you.”

Floyd, the “sensitive one,” is put into troll slumber by Velvet and Veneer (Amy Schumer and Andrew Rannells), the arrogant sister-brother duo who sing from Rageous Mountain, who find a way to bring out the trolls’ musical talent in turn. to increase themselves. These two are tall, slender characters with thin green hair and googly Pac-Man eyes. They want to be famous, but they can’t stop working for it. It’s unclear how they trapped Floyd in the first place, but they’ve now drained nearly all of his life force and are conspiring to trap other BroZone members.

That’s all you need to know about the plot, beyond the joke that Floyd is trapped in a diamond prison, and the band members believe that if they can achieve perfect family harmony, their voices can shatter diamonds. “We’re out of sync,” Floyd tells Branch. “We’ve gone from boys to men, and now there’s only one direction we can go: the back alleys.” With jokes like this, it’s unclear whether this movie is a boy band parody or a feature-length commercial. The answer, of course, is both. Judging by the tweens darting in and out of their seats at the film’s Animation Is Film Festival premiere, the target audience doesn’t need an ironic wink to justify the guilt-free pleasure of NSYNC’s reunion.

Like Illumination’s “Sing” sequel, the series has evolved from a music-focused kid’s confidence booster into a sales pitch for the ultra-processed mainstream music industry. The soundtrack here consists of mixed “oldie” medleys, including a high-energy sequence combining New Edition’s “Candy Girl” with New Kids on the Block’s “You Got It (The Right Stuff).” The vocals are all Auto-Tuned to the extreme, but at least we’re not dealing with Alvin and the Chipmunks’ annoying falsettos.

Not all studio cartoons need to take themselves seriously. But what if Elizabeth Tippet’s script consisted entirely of one-liners and aphorisms? Directed by Walt Dohrn (who has been with the series since its inception), “Trolls Band Together” embraces its own absurdity by presenting trippy scenes that switch to 70s-style hand-drawn animation. (Like a cross between underground comics and “Midnight Gospel,” the Rhonda “Hustle” sequence is every bit as surreal.) The film was conceived as a feature-length party featuring a Bergen wedding, an island vacation, a rave. park chase and various concerts; which is much more entertaining than the dark and fast-paced “Trolls World Tour.”

Since the series’ first entry, art and craftsman design has been a selling point, with flocked leather textures and felt-like production design. It’s the same here, as the team finds creative uses for pool noodles and water beads that give the whole thing a tactile workshop feel, as if the entire movie was put together in an Etsy seller’s workshop. Even the bad guys are sweet, as is their overworked sidekick Crimp (Zosia Mamet).

In a world where Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” far outperforms Martin Scorsese movies, haters are trolls, and trolls are exactly what the audience ordered.

“Trolls Come Together” — 3 stars (out of 4)

MPA rating: PG (mildly crude and suggestive humor)

Running time: 1:31

How to watch: Premieres in theaters November 16

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