Written by Patrick Hao
In the Winter of 2016, when America was in the throes of a highly contested election, Illumination’s Sing became a massive hit. Its story of a bunch of dreamers stylized with Illumination’s patented and formula-tested cute, wide-eyed animal animation wrapped in a jukebox musical was the optimistic and shallow piece of disposable entertainment perfect for the time. That and the fact that as children’s animation, it was destined to be put endlessly on loop to distract the toddler in the house as they want to hear Taron Egerton belt Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” for the umpteenth time.
It only makes sense that Sing 2 has been released going into year 3 of a global pandemic. Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), the overly hopeful koala producer is hoping to transfer his show, populated by the characters from the first Sing, to Redshore City, the film’s equivalent of Las Vegas. The gang includes Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a pig who is just happy to perform away from her 25 piglets, Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a porcupine rockstar, Gunter (Nick Kroll), a bumbling German pig, Meena (Tori Kelly), a shy elephant with body image issues, and Johnny (Taron Egerton), a gorilla with a voice of gold. This gang of normies and dreamers gets an audition in front of the ruthless media mogul wolf, Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale), who is initially dismissive until Buster Moon promises that he can coax the reclusive rock star Clay Calloway (Bono) out of retirement to perform at the show.
Like the first Sing, it still makes little sense why this film is set in a world of animals, besides the obvious monetary incentives as children’s entertainment. The film never truly justifies it, neither making any real jokes or visual choices with the animal world they are playing in. Garth Jennings, the stylish visual director who previously directed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the inventive Son of Rambow, uses the visual language of live-action drama, never taking advantage of the limitless possibility of animation that is afforded to him.
Sing 2 is even more relentless than the first film. An endless stream of pop songs and colors dull the senses, making sure that the five-year-old watching the film will never feel an ounce of boredom. The songs used seem even more on the nose. Buster Moon is feeling an all hope is lost moment – let’s play Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” Johnny realizes he needs to embrace his artistic freedom – let’s have him sing “There’s No Holdin’ Me Back.” The gang sneaks into a building they do not belong – time for Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy ” of course. It makes sense that the ultimate dream of this group is to end up with a show in the film’s equivalent of Vegas. It is shallow entertainment.
The voice performances are all appropriately game for the task at hand. The only exception is Matthew McConaughey as Buster Moon, who along with the first Sing, is elevating his role to a genuinely interesting vocal performance. He pitches his voice to an unrecognizable nasal register. He is seemingly channeling the bright-eyed optimism of Johnny Depp’s Ed Wood and Kermit the Frog’s practical exasperation. He is tasked with getting the gang back together and putting on a show after all.
Sing 2 is by no means as cynical as a lot of the soulless children’s entertainment in the market today. However, Illumination’s house style breeds a pop sensibility that can be mind-numbingly addictive to children. Like Buster Moon, they relentlessly beat down the audience until they succumb. I wish all the parents luck when they have to watch Sing 2 for the fortieth time.
Sing 2 Trailer
Sing 2 is available in wide theatrical release.