The first “Trolls” movie, released in 2016, was inspired by the ugly-cute dolls with tufts of brushed-up fuzzy hair that were initially popular in the 1960s. The film imagined a candy-colored world of music and happiness, with Anna Kendrick as Poppy, the Troll King’s daughter. She rescues the trolls from giant troll-eating ogres called Bergens and begins a relationship with Branch (Justin Timberlake), a once-reclusive, doomsday prepper troll, afraid to go out since the Bergens took his grandmother. Poppy helps a shy Bergen chef named Bridget (Zooey Deschanel) win the heart of King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and teaches them and Branch that they can find happiness through love, friendship, and music.
In the second film, “Trolls World Tour” (2020), Poppy learns that there are other troll communities with other kinds of music, including hard rock, led by the very aggressive Queen Barb (Rachel Bloom). Once again, Poppy saves the day with her example of kindness and inclusion. But this new film recognizes that some villains may need more than cheerfulness and a good example.
All of the movies make wise and witty use of beloved pop songs, complemented by the colorful designs of the world of the trolls. There is a double meaning in using the word “band” in the title. We learn in an opening flashback that Branch and his brothers were members of a popular boy band called BroZone, a sly nod to Timberlake’s time as a member of *NSYNC. Branch was just a toddler in a diaper when the performance went disastrously wrong, and the group decided to break up. “We’re not in synch,” one brother says. “We’ve gone from boys to men, and now there’s only one direction to go: back streets.” Yes, there will be another comment later in the film referring to the New Kids on the Block, Menudo, and New Edition.
In the present day, King Gristle and Bridget’s wedding is interrupted by the arrival of Branch’s oldest brother, John Dory (Eric André), the first time Branch has seen him since the group broke up 20 years ago. He says their brother Floyd (Troye Sivan) has been captured and needs the rest of the brothers to rescue him. Floyd was locked in a diamond cage by the brother-and-sister pop duo Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Broadway star Andrew Rannells). Milli Vanilli-style, their voices are not ready for prime time. So, they captured Floyd and trapped him inside an atomizer with shatterproof diamond walls. They spritz his talent on themselves before performing, depleting not just his singing ability but his very essence.