THE STORY – Can-do koala Buster Moon and his all-star cast of animal performers prepare to launch a dazzling stage extravaganza in the glittering entertainment capital of the world. There’s just one hitch — he has to find and persuade the world’s most reclusive rock star to join them. What begins as Buster’s dream of big-time success soon becomes an emotional reminder of the power of music to heal even the most broken heart.
THE CAST – Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Bobby Cannavale, Halsey, Pharrell Williams, Nick Offerman, Letitia Wright, Eric André, Chelsea Peretti & Bono
THE TEAM – Garth Jennings (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 110 Minutes
By Daniel Howat
Illumination has made a name for themselves, mainly on the cute factor of their animation – “Minions,” Dr. Suess characters, and the titular pets from “The Secret Life of Pets.” Their glossy, colorful, sweet animation style has been beloved by kids for years now. Releasing five years after the first film, “Sing 2” launches Illumination’s third official franchise, after “Despicable Me” and “The Secret Life of Pets.” The film is a toe-tapping jukebox musical that’s sure to have kids dancing, making it a perfect sing-along film. However, adults will find it to be reasonably simplistic with a story that prioritizes the catchy songs over any kind of genuine emotion.
In the first “Sing,” plucky theater owner Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) holds a singing competition to revitalize and rebuild his theater. Along the way, he inspires numerous talented animals to make their dreams come true. While this happy ending paved the way for some exciting shows in their theater, like the “Alice in Wonderland” sequence that opens the film, more tremendous success still seems out of reach for Buster and the crew. Trying to impress a talent scout named Suki Lane (Chelsea Peretti) fails. “You’d never make it in the big leagues,” she tells him. Those words make Buster more determined than ever.
All the animals join Buster and head for Redshore City (Las Vegas meets New York City) to win over mega-producer Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale). Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), Ash (Scarlett Johansson), Johnny (Taron Egerton), and Meena (Tori Kelly) pile on a bus and begin rehearsing the number to wow Crystal. The emotional message of chasing your dreams is laid on thick to ensure kids don’t miss it with little subtlety, but it’s a simple theme for kids to latch on to, much like in the first film.
Along the way, the film pummels you with music. More than 40 renditions of hit songs from across the musical spectrum are remixed and covered by the cast. There are covers of Billie Eilish, Prince, Camila Cabello, U2, BTS, and more. It’s non-stop, but it’s a safe bet to give kids new versions of songs to sing along to. This cast is exceptionally talented, which makes the mash-up of Glee and Kidz Bop more palatable. They even add Bono to the mix in his first animated voice role, so the music is quite good throughout.
The adorable animation style that Illumination is known for continues here, though it’s never been a favorite. Everything looks glossy, emphasizing the cute factor over everything else. It succeeds in that respect, but it’s largely uninteresting and bland, albeit endearing.
With such an overstuffed cast, it’s hard to invest in any one particular storyline. Johnny is training for a dance sequence he can’t quite nail. Rosita is balancing being a mom with trying to be a singer. Meena has her first crush. All of this while Buster tries to keep the show – and himself – alive. This simplistic yet crowded storytelling primarily prioritizes cute moments and musical numbers over any impactful emotion. The plot is so preposterous that rather than have a legitimate conflict with a producer that doesn’t like the direction of their show, Crystal literally tries to murder Buster over and over again. It’s nonsense, and frankly, weird. But this sequel is more concerned with keeping things as simple as possible. This approach works for younger kids, but as Pixar proves time and again, kids can handle more complex storytelling than we often give them credit for.
For young kids who love music, “Sing 2” is a winner. It’s a safe, adorable film with a good message. For parents, it’s not terribly annoying, which is a win in and of itself. It may not be exactly memorable, but it’s a fine animated film that kids are sure to eat up.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Charming animation and loads of great songs; this is a toe-tapping jukebox musical that kids are sure to enjoy.