Anyone up for an animated movie about talking animals? Make that singing animals (if autotune can be called singing). Make that another movie about singing animals. Yes, Sing 2 is here.
Matthew McConaughey? Reese Witherspoon? Seth MacFarlane? Scarlett Johansson? Nick Kroll? John C. Reilly? Taron Egerton? Tori Kelly? Did I mention that they play singing, anthropomorphic animals?
You could do worse than this sequel to 2016’s Sing, which follows a ragtag musical menagerie looking to take their act to the film’s version of Las Vegas. As in the original film, they’re led by Buster the koala (voice of McConaughey), who’s a kind of furry Kermit the Frog: a mostly unflappable manager who genuinely wants to produce good art. The struggling theater he owns is a little less struggling as the film opens, thanks to the success of his production of Alice in Wonderland (which for some reason features Prince’s 1984 song “Let’s Go Crazy”).
Buster wants to take the show to Redshore City, but a representative of a music producer (Bobby Cannavale) says their potatoes are just too small to make it in Not Vegas. In desperation, Buster promises an appearance by a retired and reclusive rock star/lion named Clay Callaway (Bono). Note: the U2 frontman’s appearance is probably less exciting for kids than it is for any parents who called in sick to stand in line for eight hours so they could catch U2’s “Elevation” tour standing 20 feet from the stage. Not that I know anyone who did that.
Also returning are Rosita (Witherspoon), a mama pig with 25 porcine bundles of joy; punk porcupine Ash (Johansson); Johnny the gorilla (Egerton); and Gunter (Kroll), a German pig. Meena the elephant (Kelly) has overcome the stage fright that plagued her in the first film and is now the troupe’s leading lady.
Writer-director Garth Jennings’s script hits the usual sequel plot points: No one over the age of 10 will ever accuse the film of originality, or wonder for very long whether this plucky zoo will ultimately manage to put on a solid performance. The voice acting is solid, across the board. McConaughey in particular gives Buster a sweet optimism that makes it impossible not to root for him.
The problem is two divergent story lines that don’t quite mesh. One involves Ash trying to persuade Clay, a widow who’s grieving his late wife, to return to the stage. The second involves the other members of the troupe and their various impediments to performing. These narrative threads feel too different from each other, and the resolution of Clay’s story is, in the end, both overly pat and paltry.
The film, from Illumination Entertainment (Despicable Me and its sequels), shares the distinctive look of that studio’s animation: slick and bright, but without the depth or nuance of a Pixar film. The large-scale production numbers are fun to watch, if chaotic at times. The handful of scenes in which characters soar through the air on wires are actually kind of beautiful. But the song selections — which seem to be trying to match, in number, the 60-plus tunes that were featured in Sing — are sometimes puzzling, if well-performed. Very few are sung in their entirety, so the soundtrack amounts to a mash-up of pop snippets. The placement is also irregular: Some tunes convey meaning or motivations, while others are simply karaoke.
Hey, it’s winter break. I get it. The kids are squirrelly. You need to get out of the house. A cinematic masterpiece it is not. But Sing 2 is good enough. And as the farmer said in Babe, a much better talking-animal movie: “That’ll do, pig, that’ll do.”