"Sing 2" stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Bobby Cannavale, Halsey, Pharrell Williams, Letitia Wright, Eric Andre, Chelsea Peretti, and Bono. Released on December 22, 2021, the film has Buster Moon and his cast preparing for a show at the Crystal Tower Theater.
The film was written and directed by Garth Jennings, who also directed "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" and "Son of Rambow". It is a sequel to the 2016 animated film "Sing", also directed by Jennings. You better dust off your microphones and warm up your vocal cords because it's time to sing loud and proud once again. The folks at Illumination Entertainment are back from their one-year hiatus due to the pandemic to release a follow-up to one of their successful films. No, I'm not talking about the Minions. Not yet, anyway. I'm talking about a film about anthropomorphic animals who sing and dance their way to the top, American Idol-style. Garth Jennings' "Sing" may seem like a "Zootopia" rip-off regarding its setting and characters, but underneath the surface is a colorful and heartfelt comedy involving a group of animals facing obstacles to achieve their musical dreams. Following its critical and commercial success, Illumination put a fast track on a sequel with Jennings and the entire cast returning for an encore, except Seth MacFarlane, who's busy spending his "Sing" money on more episodes of Family Guy. I wasn't expecting the animation company to revisit this world. While I highly enjoyed "Sing" for its charm, heart, and songs, I usually looked at it as a one-and-done deal, like how I did with "The Secret Life of Pets". But I was willing to give it a chance since I enjoyed the characters they introduced in its predecessor. Was this second verse as comedic and heartfelt as the first? Let's find out.
The story takes place sometime after the events of the first film, where Buster Moon (McConaughey) is thriving with his new Moon Theater. His recent production has impressed all but one viewer: a talent scout named Suki (Peretti), who tells him he would not make it in Redshore City. Hoping to prove Suki wrong, Buster reunites the gang and heads to the city to share their original pitch with entertainment mogul Jimmy Crystal (Cannavale). Unfortunately, Crystal quickly disapproves of Buster's idea. They then come up with a new show idea that would feature the legendary rock star Clay Calloway (Bono), who hasn't been seen in 15 years. This resulted in Buster and his troupe facing brand new challenges during their three-week preparation, including convincing Calloway to come out of retirement. Like the first film, "Sing 2" forgoes the cartoony slapstick that Illumination is known for in favor of a jukebox musical drama centering on characters preparing for the big event. This direction was what I liked the most from its predecessor because it gave the studio a chance to provide a character-driven story amid its kid-friendly antics and humor. The execution was far from Oscar-worthy, but it delivered enough heart and energy in its characters, songs, and messages to make it one of my favorite films from Illumination. Unsurprisingly, "Sing 2" offered more of the same as the original, just in a different environment, and the show they're putting together reminisces the Star Trek franchise. If that's what you're looking for, then there's no doubt that you and your kids will have a fun time revisiting the vibrant and musical world of "Sing". However, if you're hoping for it to be the next great animated sequel like "How to Train Your Dragon 2" or even "Toy Story 2" quality-wise, don't waste your breath with this one because that's not happening. While it delivered what worked in the original, such as the cast and animation, "Sing 2" failed to recapture the same amount of soul and magic that made its predecessor a remarkable family film. Now, it's not to say that it's unnecessary or terrible, as it had plenty of humorous and charming moments that made me appreciate its feel-good vibes. It's the fact that I was slightly disappointed in the direction it was going for despite Garth Jennings' involvement in writing and directing the film. Along with having some of the same beats as its predecessor, the story in "Sing 2" was pretty straightforward and predictable, mainly due to Universal's terrible marketing. I'm sorry, but the recent trailers sucked the tension right out of the film by showcasing its third act. They should've just released the first trailer, and that's it. Save the surprises for the actual movie. Now I understand why people don't like movie trailers anymore. The plot also had some intriguing elements in the character development that would've made the story emotionally engaging. The overall theme of "Sing 2" is what we currently face today while chasing our dreams: overcoming our fears. Throughout the film, we see specific characters facing their concerns while preparing for the show. First, Buster Moon learns not to let Jimmy Crystal tell him what he can and cannot do for the show. Next, Rosita (Witherspoon) encounters her fear of heights while playing the main lead. Then, Johnny (Egerton) worries about losing his self-confidence while working for his choreographer Klaus Kickenklober (Adam Buxton). Then we see Meena (Kelly) attempting to overcome her shyness, resulting in her meeting a charming ice cream vendor named Alfonso (Pharrell Williams). Finally, we have Clay Calloway, who's concerned about performing in front of people again after his wife passed away. It's an inspiring and heartfelt message that should resonate well with young kids because it teaches them not to let their fears get in the way of achieving their dreams. Unfortunately, since this is Illumination we're talking about, its storytelling wasn't as thought-provoking as the themes it represented. It's not entirely awful, but it was pretty underwhelming regarding the elements they introduced, especially when taking the arcs for Clay, Rosita, and Meena into account. The character arcs were either rushed or nonexistent to the point where the film robbed itself of its emotion. I can understand that it didn't want to alienate the kids with its deeper themes and slow pacing, but in cases like this, it doesn't always work as an excuse for average storytelling in animation. Despite this issue, the characters, both old and new, were enjoyable enough to entertain the target audience, thanks to its entertaining voice cast, ranging from the charismatic McConaughey as Buster Moon to U2 lead singer Bono as Clay Calloway. Bobby Cannavale also did some solid voice work as the film's antagonist, Jimmy Crystal, regarding the actor's vocal range and the character's devious and selfish personality. Like the first film, Nick Kroll and Garth Jennings as Gunter and Miss Crawly, respectively, were the main highlights of the cast in "Sing 2", mainly due to their gleeful humor and amusing presences. Then, we have the film's animation, which looked as vibrant and lively as in the previous film. Redshore City is a fabulous animal rendition of Las Vegas, and the space-themed show in the third act is a magnificent sight to behold direction-wise and visual-wise. It's another good example of Illumination's ability to provide colorful blasts of imagination, even though its storytelling still leaves much to be desired.
Overall, "Sing 2" is another Illumination sequel that hits the right notes in its presentation and heart but stumbles in everything else. When it comes to the cast, the jukebox songs, and the animation, the film is a fun and harmless experience that's worth singing along to with the kids, especially if you enjoyed the first film. Sadly, its disappointing direction for the story and character depth prevented it from joining the top-tier animation choir. It's a tolerable distraction for the kids if they're bored of "Encanto" or "Clifford the Big Red Dog", but it doesn't deliver anything beyond its verses for everyone else. On the bright side, the film is another way to introduce your kids to U2, so there's that.