Branch and Poppy are a troll couple now. WooHoo!
I mean, they’re not married or anything, but they are an official troll-uple. (So does that make them “Broppy” now?)
Anyway, this story isn’t initially about their romance. No, it’s about Poppy’s best friend, Bridget, and her marriage to King Gristle. Yes, they’re both Bergens, the monsters known for grabbing and gobbling trolls. But that’s so yesterday. These days, everyone in Pop Village loves them and their snaggle-toothed ways. And now these special Bergen buds are tying the nuptial knot.
But right in the middle of the ceremony, Branch’s long-lost brother, John Dory, barges in looking for help. Since Branch never mentioned he had any siblings before, Poppy reacts with a gasping, What? You’ve got a brother?
Turns out John Dory used to be the lead singer for Poppy’s favorite boy band, the BroZone. Which earns another Wha-what?! Oh, and Branch was in that band, too, doncha know. He was the oh-so-cute Baby-B.
Yep, it looks like Poppy and Branch have a few things to talk out. But even more important is the fact that another bro from BroZone, Floyd, has been troll-napped. So, naturally, Branch needs to gather his other bros for a rescue.
Don’t worry, Bridget and King Gristle finally get hitched. And everyone cheers. But Poppy then quickly offers to help the bros find their bro. Hey, who knows what other new siblings might pop up along the way.
As you might have expected, a large group of friends and siblings comes together to help Floyd, all of whom are willing to put themselves in danger to find him.
That said, different siblings sometimes argue and fight. In fact, that’s why the BroZone broke up way back when. But the movie also proclaims that family is forever, and it illustrates that forgiveness takes effort. Poppy, for instance, tells an angry Branch, “A brother is a friend who can never leave you.” She also declares, “Family is always worth it!”
Band Together also nods approvingly toward marriage and the bond that a committed union creates. Another of Branch’s brothers has married and has a full brood of kids, for instance. And despite the obvious differences this mixed-species couple has, they are loving, committed and work well together.
The villains’ foul choices, meanwhile, eventually come to light, and those characters receive their comeuppance. Their lives and their choices remind us that the things you hold as important generally take hard work to come to fruition.
[Spoiler Warning] Remember when I mentioned above about the possibility of discovering other long-lost siblings? Sure enough, another one shows up. This one happens to be Poppy’s long-lost sister, that she never knew she had. (Whaaatttt?!)
In the nearby city of Mount Rageous, the musically talentless brother and sister duo, Veneer and Velvet use a magical device to siphon talent away from the captive Floyd.
However, those talent spritzes need constant replenishing, and Floyd begins to turn translucent, growing ever weaker with each “succubus-like” draw. The dastardly duo also attempts to capture the other talented troll bothers and use the same essence-sucking magic on them.
Through this villainous brother-sister team, the film paradoxically suggests that achieving something like fame requires hard work, even though it’s tempting and easy to lie, trick and cheat your way into being popular.
The BroZone brothers talk about finding the magical essence of a “perfect family harmony.” Someone asks, “How’s my aura?” A genie-like being named Hustle flies and has three eyes.
In a flashback, we meet the pre-breakup BroZone, and each brother has a particular stage personality that he embodies. One plays the “heartthrob” and makes sure to exercise his shirtless abs before a concert, so that female audience members will faint over his physique. Another brother wears skimpy briefs called “thunderdrawers.” Branch and John Dory use those unwashed drawers later to offer a scent that their armadillo bus can track.
And speaking of underwear, when Branch was Baby B, he wore a diaper in stage performance. And we see his adult backside as he squeezes back into a diaper for a musical rehearsal. He complains that if the diaper was any tighter, he “could taste it.”
It’s quite clear that newlyweds Bridget and King Gristle are very passionate about one another. During a potentially dangerous situation, for instance, Bridget turns to her groom and says, “Would it be weird if we made out?” To which King Gristle replies “It would be weird if we didn’t.” And so they do. We see them kissing several times. Bridget also tells him, “I didn’t think we’d both get tied up this honeymoon.” They also giggle while recalling a water ride at an amusement part where King Gristle’s swimming trunks got ripped off, prompting Bridget to say suggestively, “So hot!”
One other running suggestive wink is the question of how Spruce/Bruce and his very tall wife (who is a completely different species) “make it work.” (The above instances are illustrative of similar lightly veiled innuendo scattered about elsewhere in the movie’s the dialogue.)
Veneer is somewhat flamboyant in terms of his colorful outfits and onstage presentation. Floyd is described, perhaps suggestively, as being the “sensitive” member of BroZone. If there are subtle hints intended in these mildly effeminate characterizations, however, we never see them confirmed in action.
Poppy and Branch kiss.
Chase scenes involve some moments of peril. But the biggest sense of danger comes from the look of Floyd as he becomes more washed out and sick-looking. At one point it appears that he may have died. (But he’s saved.)
We hear characters reference a troll grandmother who was eaten during an infamous Bergen attack years before, before that race made peace with the trolls. That massacre clearly scarred many trolls.
We hear three misuses of God’s name and four exclamations of “oh my gosh.” We also see the letters “OMG.” We hear a line from the chorus of Lizzo’s hit song “Good as H—” that includes that profane phrase. An audibly bleeped four-letter profanity is “spelled out” onscreen with symbols in a thought bubble. We hear three variations on the mildly vulgar word “sucks.” There’s some sarcastic name-calling, such as “beautiful idiot.”
While stopping at a vacation resort, Poppy drinks what looks like a fruity adult beverage.
Though not directly drug related, the BroZone bus (a living “armadillo”) has a “hustle” button. When someone hits it, the bus and its occupants fly into a blur of twisting and turning cartoon images, feeling very much like a wink to the psychedelic rock band acid trips of the ‘60s.
Before a musical performance, a younger version of Branch admits to his nervousness, saying it makes him feel like barfing, passing out and peeing his pants all at once. Elsewhere, he jokes about diaper rash. Etc.
The Trolls are back in theaters. They bring lots of color and splash as Poppy and Branch not only dive into Branch’s boy-band backstory, but also Backstreet Stomp their way through lots of well-choreographed musical mashups.
It’s bouncy. It’s fast paced. Band Together even kinda sorta praises marriage and family while declaring that you’ve gotta work for your fame.
The biggest problem with this pic is that most of the jokes are aimed at the grownups in the audience rather than the kids. (Especially if Mom and Dad are boy-band fans.) That’s not a terrible thing overall, I suppose. But many of these mildly suggestive quips will float over kids heads like a Timberlake high note. (In my screening I noted a number of adult chuckles, but not a single kiddy giggle.) And a few jokes carry a very adult vibe. And some occasional language issues creep in at the margins occasionally, too.
Can Trolls Band Together still be a good family outing? Maybe. Just make sure you’re *NSYNC about who’s holding the popcorn.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.