“Sing 2” doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s a bit of an unoriginal animated musical sequel featuring a menagerie of animals belting out chart-topping songs both new and old, set against this wonderfully bright and colorful Las Vegas-like setting. Of course, such a trajectory for the film was inevitable for these characters as they go from being local small-town dreamers who reach for something higher. And the obstacles they must overcome to get there fit nicely within the confines of the solid kid-friendly story. But without a certain degree of maturity, it feels like it’s pandering. Still, there is no denying how those colors and the physical comedy make for something that the kids will fall in love with.
After the events of the first “Sing,” “Sing 2” follows Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) attempting to land a show a new show at the Crystal Tower Theater in glamorous Redshore City. When Ash mistakenly uses a song by reclusive rock star legend Clay Calloway that they had no rights to, ruthless business mogul Jimmy Crystal believes Buster can bring Clay out of hiding. The only problem is, Buster doesn’t know who Clay is. As such, he embarks on a quest to persuade Clay to return to the stage or die trying.
“Sing 2” brings back pretty much the entire cast from the previous installment, with McConaughey and Johansson taking the lead as the story mainly revolves around them trying to get Clay out of his perpetual mourning phase. The rock star legend lost his motivation to play after the death of his wife and decided to live a life of reclusiveness as a means to grieve. Meanwhile, Buster may have promised too much to Crystal, who threatens to throw the cuddly theater manager off the roof if he doesn’t deliver. And as he desperately tries to do that, he also has to justify giving Rosita’s (Reese Witherspoon) lead spot to Porsha because of her fear of heights. Then there’s Johnny (Taran Egerton), who’s taking lessons for a complicated dance number from a pretentious instructor. And to make things even more complex, Meena (Tori Kelly) isn’t getting along with her co-star Darius (Eric Andre), an arrogant yak cast as the romantic counterpart.
Interestingly enough, “Sing 2” does have a lot to say about each character overcoming their respective anxieties. Though wild in its execution, the film has its heart in the right place and manages to show what happens when we can overcome those fears through different coping mechanisms. But because it takes on more than it should, everything Johnny, Meena, and Rosita do work on their anxieties is cheapened or cut down for editing.
Though the first “Sing” revolved around the story of building each of the character’s respective confidence through the use of chart-topping hits, “Sing 2” is more about the development of a large stage production. However, in telling that story, it overplays its hand by juggling too many subplots. As such, the character development suffers, and it becomes more of the animals singing covers of Prince, Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Billie Ellish, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and more. While the select songs are catchy and will introduce the classics to a younger audience, they resemble Tik-Tok videos but with more animated textures and vibrant energy.
Still, there’s no denying that even though the entire playlist is cut down to the best lyrics, “Sing 2” utilizes its playlist in a way that works perfectly as emotional cues and foreshadowing devices. But it all comes alive when it does something wholly original. “Your Song Saved My Life,” which was made specifically for this “Sing 2,” is another excellent Bono song that wears its heart on its sleeve and something that helps elevate the film.
To be fair, “Sing 2” does have its heart in the right place as it aims to tell a story of what happened to everyone after the first film. Some have cashed in but still struggle to break the glass ceiling like Ash; others remain content with who they are as members of Buster Moon’s productions. So it’s only natural that they all try to achieve something more significant than they could ever imagine. It’s a neat and easily digestible lesson for the kids that’s both colorful and vibrant in its execution. But the overly cheesy and easy humor overshadows Clay, which should have been the film’s central focus.
“Sing 2” uses Clay’s grief as a point of reference for much of the film’s darker and more emotional scenes. Of course, since Bono voices the character, the film makes use of those melancholy U2 songs. And it works. Covers “Where the Streets Have No Name,” “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” or “I Still Haven’t Found What I Am Looking For” still hit you in the heart, even if these animals sing it.
But as “Sing 2” digs deeper into becoming something complex, it reverts to one of the too many subplots it took on since Buster and his crew went on this journey. It takes away from everything that gives the film emotional depth and trades it in for the larger-than-life animated musical sequences that made the first so much fun. And since those animated musical sequences were the only thing that could grab anyone’s attention, “Sing 2” repeats much of the same mistakes as its predecessor. As such, the film has a very contrived way of handling Clay’s grief and what Ash does to bring him out of hiding.
“Sing 2” may know what it wants, but it lacks the decency to believe its audience is mature enough to handle an emotionally complex story. Sure, it may be a kid-friendly story set against the spectacle of an animated musical backdrop, and that makes it a visual wonder. But a lot of its heart is sacrificed whenever the film uses cheap laughs. And the use of iconic songs works emotional cues and brings a fun energetic jukebox vibe, even though they are snipped to their best lyrics.
“Sing 2” isn’t nearly as insufferable as its predecessor despite repeating the same mistakes and underestimating its audience. Part of that has to do with Bono’s star power and how much fun it can be to watch animation comes alive through silly comedy and music. And even though much of its execution is flawed, the emotional inklings and visual spectacle are enough to make this somewhat enjoyable.
In theaters December 22th.