Trolls Band Together (Christian Movie Review)
About The Movie
Every so often, a cereal company pulls a marketing stunt by releasing an “Only Marshmallows!” version of their breakfast food. I’ve never indulged myself with one of those boxes, but I imagine the experience would feel a lot like watching a Trolls movie—lots of sweetness, not a lot of substance. Trolls Band Together, the third entry in the franchise, is no different. In many ways, it is a throwback to an old-school approach to children’s animated films, offering an unrelenting sugar rush of hyper-stimulation for younger viewers and tossing in some dirty jokes and innuendos for the long-suffering parents. I suspect kids will enjoy the first element, but some parents may not be as enthusiastic about the second.
Visually, the film has a lot going on, but mostly in a good way. Everything on screen is bright and energetic. The trolls’ skin and hair is so textured you can almost feel it. An advantage of these films is that animators can experiment without restriction. Beyond the surreal world of the Trolls themselves, there are also sequences featuring puppet-like characters and a few psychedelic scenes that morph into a classic 2D style (think bizarre pre-Disney cartoons).
In contrast to the unrelenting inventiveness of the visual aesthetic, the plot is simple. It’s not boring, but it’s surprisingly uneventful. It’s a “getting the band back together” story, as the brothers from a once-popular boy band must put aside their differences to rescue one of their members being held captive. It’s a fun idea, but there’s very little actual action. The movie falls into a pattern: find a brother, talk through their differences, sing a pop song together, head off to find the next brother, rinse, and repeat. The villains don’t even intersect with the main trolls until the final act.
As a result, humor and songs are left to do most of the heavy lifting of keeping things interesting. The humor comes rapid fire, and it can be hard to keep up. Some of the gags are legitimately hilarious. But many of the jokes are meta-commentary on the music industry, which might make parents chuckle but will go over younger viewers’ heads. More problematic is that there are also a handful of crude jokes and innuendo that kids will hopefully miss too (see content section below).
Trolls Band Together may not seem to have a lot in common with a Fast and Furious movie, but like those Vin Diesel-led flicks, this film is all about family. While much of the movie is chaotic stimuli overload, the slower heartfelt moments are touching and wholesome. For example, the relationship between the Branch and Poppy has actual depth. When they disagree, rather than brooding, they reaffirm their trust for each other, apologize, and carry on with a refreshing lack of needless drama. The dynamic between some of the other family members also provides some much-needed substance to balance out the frenetic spectacle.
I took my kids to a screening of this movie, but my AMC theater inadvertently began playing the Blumhouse horror film Five Nights at Freddy’s instead (a story for another day!). And to be honest, I’m not sure what was more frightening: the surprise horror film or the prospect of sitting through another Trolls movie. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a lot about this film. It’s so positive and bright that it’s hard not to be uplifted by it. Unfortunately, the adult-oriented content casts a cloud over this otherwise entertaining family film.
Engage The Film
Trolls Band Together is all about learning to unite as a supportive and loving family. Both Branch and Poppy are reunited with long-lost siblings and forced either to adjust their expectations or to work through the scars of prior hurt feelings.
Brozone, the boy band comprised of Branch and his four brothers, start off by searching for the “perfect family harmony.” They are referring to literal harmony of musical notes, but it is also a metaphor for the lack of unity in the family. The oldest brother declares, “If we aren’t perfect, we’re nothing.” Since perfection is unobtainable, the family is promptly broken apart.
Each of the brothers has a defined persona (“the heartthrob,” the “fun one,” the “leader,” etc.) that doesn’t fully reflect who they truly are, and they struggle to find their identity outside of these narrow perceptions. After a film’s worth of adventures and important life lessons, they finally come to the realization that “We don’t have to be perfect to be in harmony.” The movie preaches a message that family is not about conforming to other people’s impossible expectations but about learning to love and appreciate each other for who they really are. As one character says, “Family is always worth it.” It’s a wholesome message for families, and one that can inspire and challenge both children and their parents in the audience.