‘Trolls Band Together’ brings out the inner child

Nov. 28, 2023, 1:08 a.m.

I never thought I would find myself fully invested, laughing and bopping my head to a Trolls movie in my second year of college. Astonishingly, “Trolls Band Together” (2023) managed to make me do just that.

I caught the film at an early screening on Nov. 9 at Landmark Aquarius in Palo Alto, and I left the theater with a renewed appreciation for simple feel-good cinema. The “Trolls” movies have never been profound works that require a film degree or keen eye to understand — they’re just children’s movies. There is some beauty in not having to think analytically about the film in case I miss a hidden meaning. 

“Trolls Band Together” marks the third feature film in the surprisingly vast Trolls cinematic universe, which spans a variety of television shows, movies and holiday specials. This installment has Branch (voiced by Justin Timberlake) trying to reunite his brothers to sing “the perfect family harmony,” a musical arrangement so powerful that it can break diamond. As it turns out, one of the brothers, Floyd (Troye Sivan), is trapped in a diamond enclosure by antagonists Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannell), who are using the brother’s magical essence to enhance their singing abilities and become mega pop stars.

It is also no coincidence that “Trolls Band Together” features many callbacks to previous boy band groups throughout history, including the Jackson 5, One Direction, Backstreet Boys and NSYNC (of which Justin Timberlake is a member). NSYNC even broke a 21-year hiatus to release “Better Place” for this film’s credit sequence. Sure, it’s no “Bye, Bye, Bye,” but the song is quite catchy.

The star-studded cast of “Trolls Band Together” features voice actors the likes of Anna Kendrick, Zooey Deschanel, Camila Cabello, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and even Kid Cudi (just to name a few). While many of these celebrities have no formal training in voice acting — which can be heard by the lack of emphasis on certain lines throughout the movie — it did not take away from the viewing experience. It was quite thrilling to occasionally recognize the voices behind different Trolls and other characters. 

Curiously, I think this film is a must-watch for college students. It’s nice to just sit in a cinema, look up at the screen and be in awe at the magic of film. It’s nice to have the troubles of problem sets, classwork or life drama paused, if just for an hour and 31 minutes. 

Just because the Trolls movies cannot be compared to the likes of “Parasite” (2019), “Everything Everywhere All at Once” (2022) or “Citizen Kane” (1941) doesn’t mean that the film is bad — in fact, even bad films also have the ability to unite us. A prime example is “The Disaster Artist” (2017), a movie about the making of “the worst movie ever,” “The Room”(2003).

The central message in “Trolls Band Together” is that love is all around us. Through the movie’s explorations of both chosen and biological families, this moral hits home. 

When I sat in that cinema and saw colorful, fuzzy creatures singing and dancing, I thought of my siblings. The film has Branch reuniting with his estranged brothers and Poppy (Anna Kendrick) finding out that she has a long lost sister, Viva (Camila Cabello). Both characters grow as they become closer to their siblings. As audience members we are reminded of the bonds that can be nurtured between family members.

My younger sister and I have a 12-year age difference, and I just knew this is a movie that she would love to see. Given that we are in different stages of life, there are few things connecting us — but film is one of them. Right now, her biggest worry is whether or not to wear a bow in her hair, while I’m dealing with the overwhelming question of what to do with the rest of my life.

 “Trolls” gives me the opportunity to feel connected to her.

A friendship bracelet with the words "in our Trolls era" written on it
Official merchandise given at the early screening of “Trolls Band Together” (2023), hosted by Universal Pictures at Stanford. (Photo: ANTHONY MARTINEZ ROSALES/The Stanford Daily)

It is highly unlikely that “Trolls Band Together” will win any Oscars or receive any critical praise in this upcoming award season, but awards cannot always capture the full viewing experience. Sitting next to my friend, sporting our matching bracelets and singing along to the songs is an experience that no other film has given me this year. 

Cinema as a whole is able to bring us closer and show us that life can be a little more colorful and cheery, if only we allow it to be. I urge you to watch this movie and let the power of simplicity take over.

Editor’s Note: This article is a review and includes subjective thoughts, opinions and critiques.

Anthony Martinez Rosales is the vol. 265 Screen desk editor.

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