Trolls Band Together is out in theaters as of this past weekend. It’s a brightly colored boy-band symphony of animation and heart, but don’t expect a high-note encore to the previous two Trolls films. The film’s lighthearted message of familial love and self-acceptance, set to a catchy soundtrack and featuring incredible animation, is occasionally overshadowed by moments of questionable humor that raise the eyebrows of adults considering the film’s audience.
If you’ve been to the movies in the past few months, you’ve probably seen the trailer for Trolls Band Together a million times. And if you’re like me, a parent who’s seen Paw Patrol in theaters three times, you’ve seen it even more. The hype was real, and the Trolls Band Together movie was bright, colorful, and had positive spots. But ultimately, it was a bit of a letdown.
An expectedly great soundtrack in Trolls Band Together
The magic of the Trolls franchise lies in its soundtrack, a masterful blend of nostalgic classics and fresh music. (It’s also the merchandise tie-ins, but that’s a different type of conversation.) Trolls’ appeal is similar to the appeal of the Sing movies. Trolls Band Together has another great soundtrack, with an added bonus: the first new NSYNC song in what feels like an eternity, but is only 20 years.
This highly anticipated song, “Better Place,” ignited an internet frenzy, fueling speculation about a reunion tour that, much like this movie, was ultimately a bust. While the reunion may not have happened, the song’s inclusion in the film is a nostalgic treat for fans of that era and takes us way back to the oh-so-ancient time of CDs.
This movie is made to appeal to parents who came of age during the boy band era who now have children themselves. The roots of bands like the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC are often ignored, but Trolls Band Together acknowledges whose shoulders they stood on, and that’s refreshing. A cheeky line in the trailer references Boyz II Men, “We’ve gone from boys to men…” aka the pioneers of modern boy bands. The soundtrack also reimagines a Boyz II Men song. That was nice to see and hear, even if it was small.
Animation befitting the soundtrack
The film’s animation is in perfect harmony with the soundtrack. Despite being the third installment in the Trolls franchise, the animators managed to push the boundaries in such a fun way. The vibrant colors and dynamic style are reminiscent of a Lisa Frank trapper keeper, just missing the dolphins. It’s a great complement to the soundtrack. And it helps clip the story along at a fast pace.
The parts of Trolls Band Together with the different animation styles are reminiscent of the groundbreaking sequences in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. The different animation styles really pop and are such a bright spot in the movie. In the film, the Trolls journey through a psychedelic wonderland, a sun-drenched vacation island, and Mount Rageous, each setting infused with its own style.
A positive but clumsy message and jarring juxtaposition of humor
Beneath the glitter of Trolls Band Together is a message delivered somewhat clumsily about loving your family, loving yourself, and not lying about your past to the important people in your life. And oh, that imprisoning people in a shatter-proof jail is generally a bad idea. The film also dances around having a message about fame, and while that message would have been a good one in what is increasingly and somewhat alarmingly a likes/views-obsessed childhood, it never quite coalesced.
Amidst the film’s cheery tunes and message of the bond of siblings, there are moments of questionable humor that might raise an eyebrow or two among adults, given the film’s target PG audience. While the film’s vibrant visuals and upbeat soundtrack aim to capture young viewers’ hearts, including jokes with so much innuendo that could be considered inappropriate for their age group, creates an awkward disconnect. It puts a damper on the generational appeal.
Shows like Bluey and Star Trek: Prodigy have proven that we can create animated content that appeals to both children and adults by focusing on strong storytelling and well-developed characters. The success of the Super Mario Bros. movie this past summer further reinforces this notion.
While some of the jokes in Trolls Band Together are age-appropriate, the inappropriate ones leave a lasting and unpleasant impression, making the film difficult to revisit as a parent. If you have kids, you know they want to watch the same things repeatedly, so a movie not being rewatchable is a big deal. If you have kids under 10, stick to the fantastic and family-friendly soundtrack on Spotify for your Trolls experience.
My rating for this film:
Trolls Band Together is now in theaters
Trolls Band Together is now playing in theaters nationwide. Have you watched it yet? What did you think? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!