Sing 2 (2021) Review
DREAM “BIGGER” DREAMS!
All creatures great and small! Back in 2016, Illumination Entertainment (under the umbrella banner of Universal Pictures) released the movie Sing, an animated cartoon feature film that found its way into a musically charged atmosphere and entertainment. Directed by Garth Jennings, the film, which starred the voice talents of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, and Taron Egerton, follows the koala Buster Moon, a struggling theater owner who holds a singing competition to save his failing theatre, as well how the same competition interferes with the personal lives of its contestants, who share their own dreams and challenges to face. Sing was largely a success; receiving positive reviews from critics and moviegoers alike, who praise the film’s narrative of which emphasized covers songs of over 60 from famous artist yesteryear and today as well as telling a cute and heartwarming tale of those finding their voice in music. The film went on to become a box office success by raking in over $634 million worldwide against its $75 million production budget. Now, years later, it’s time to “dream big dreams” all over again as Universal Pictures / Illumination Entertainment and director Garth Jennings present the follow-up sequel with the release of Sing 2. Does this latest installment find its singing voice or is it sequel endeavor that hits a sour note?
Determined optimist Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) has created a successful theater, selling out to shows left and right. However, his newest show has suffered a “hard pass” rejection from big-wig talent scout Suki Lang (Chelsea Peretti), who works for showbiz media mogul Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale). Determined to prove his worth, Buster and his performers travel to Redshore City, a prime location destination filled with the biggest talents and glamorous theaters, inspiring the koala to impress Jimmy with his team. Before another rejection door closes shut, Buster makes a promise for a brand new show, which the reclusive rock star Clay Calloway (Bono) will appear in his new production, a space-themed musical show titled “Out of this World”. Jimmy takes the bait, offering the trope a three weeks of rehearsal time and a theater for the undertaking of the new show, forcing Buster, along with punk rock guitarist Ash (Scarlett Johansson), to figure out how to contact Clay and talk him into returning to the stage. As things begin to set into motion for the new show, Buster’s fellow friends and performers endure various challenges to their self-esteem, with Johnny (Taron Egerton) struggles with his choreography maneuvers, Meena (Tori Kelly) afraid about kissing her co-star, and Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) being replaced as in the show’s lead, with Jimmy’s daughter, Porsha (Halsey), taking over the part. As all face their own personal obstacles, the big question remains….will the show be ready for its opening night?
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Can I just say that I am a big fan of Illumination Entertainment’s Sing. I thought it was a fun, energetic, and musically charged animated film that deserves a lot of the praise that it has received. Unfortunately, this one was of the movies that sort of “fell through the cracks” for me as I saw it when it was released in theaters (I think I saw it the week after it opened), but I actually never did a review for the film as chose to complete a few other ones and then proceeded to work on reviews for 2017 films that were coming out. Thus, 2016’s Sing was one of those one that I neglected to review, which is my bad and a bit interesting because I loved the movie. It was great feature that had a talented selection of actors and actress voicing a plethora of colorful characters (both major or minor ones) as well as having a lighthearted story of dreams and ambitions. Plus, I couldn’t forget to mention all of the songs that are presented in the film, with Sing having a collection of songs that wonderfully song by its cast. Personally, my favorite one of the entire film was Taron Egerton’s character of Johnny sing Elton John’s “I’m still standing”, which felt lent some credibility Egerton playing the iconic musician a few years in the 2019 film Rocketman. For me, the success of Sing was well-met and was probably one of the better releases from the studio from one of their non-Despicable Me endeavors. In the end, I think 2016’s Sing was a great animated film and had plenty of colorful distraction for both young and old viewers out there and an even greater rolodex of music to sing and dance to throughout.
This circles back to this current review, which is examining Sing’s 2021 sequel project titled Sing 2. Of course, with the popular success and lucrative box office results made by the first animated feature, it was almost a forgone conclusion that a follow-up cartoon adventure would be commissioned sometime after the film’s theatrical release, which it certainly did a few weeks later. However, I was a bit surprised that Sing 2 was going to be released in December 2020, almost four years after the releases of the first film. However, it was mostly due to Illumination Entertainment’s line-up releases as well as trying to get everyone together again for this second entry in the Sing franchise. So, years went on and I sort of forgot about the sequel endeavor for Sing for a little bit until it was mentioned that the upcoming project was going to be delayed a year due to the on-going ripple effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, with Sing 2 having a new release date of December 2021. After that, the news went quite for a bit again until the film’s various marketing campaign and movie trailers began to appear both online and in theaters. The trailers themselves were quite captivating to me, which showcased a lot of familiar faces (characters) from the previous film as well as new ones and boasting a new slew of musical songs that the sequel was going to be featuring. Overall, I was definitely looking forward to seeing Sing 2 in the December 2021. Due to my holiday work schedule, however, I was able to catch the new movie a week after its theatrical release, but I had to complete several other reviews first before I had the chance to give my personal “opinion” on this animated sequel. Now, I finally have the time to do so. And what did I think of it? Well, I liked it. While there are a few areas of familiarity in both story and character moments, Sing 2 is an entertaining and energetic sequel plays to the musically charged strengths of the first film in a toe-tapping continuation installment. It may not have exactly the same polish as the original one, but it’s still a catchy and visually fun sequel to check out.
Sing 2 is directed by Garth Jennings, whose previous directorial works includes the first Sing feature film as well as the movies Son of Rambow and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Given his overall familiarity with this animated franchise, Jennings’s return to the director’s chair for this cartoon sequel is like the most suitable and logical choice, who provides a familiar animated sequel that knows what it is from the get-go and certainly has fun throughout its duration. In this regard, Jennings does succeed in shaping a sequel Sing film in a somewhat similar fashion to the original by taking what works and adding a few new elements into the mix. I mean…. if it take broke, don’t fix it. So, this causes a little bit of a “double edge” sword aspect with Sing 2, but does seem to the “bread and butter” that ultimately works for the animated story (more on that below). Jennings sort of seems to know that and embraces that idea, crafting this new sequel project by strengthen / reinforcing the traditions of the first film in a wholesome way. What I do think that that Sing 2 does better than its predecessor is in how much more visual the feature is. I’ll mention more on this below, but I think that Jennings as well as the animators of the movie enrich the animated picture with such detail and bright colors that it is a marvel to behold. Jennings also builds upon the overall feeling of the first Sing feature by providing a second installment that has the same type of heart and energy as the original 2016 film; making this continuation endeavor a wholesome family friendly approach that’s quite easy to understand and to digest. Lessoned are continued to play out in a well-timed manner and are easily fundamental message about believing oneself and following your dreams.
Naturally, one of the biggest selling points of the first Sing was inclusion of the multitude of musical songs that were covered throughout the course of the 108 minute cartoon picture, with a few playing out for a few snippets, some playing in the background of montage sequences, and others being sing by the film’s main characters in fun cover renditions. Thankfully, that particular popular selling point returns in Sing 2, with Jennings giving the feature a necessary charge of music and lyrics throughout the film’s journey, including another big grand finale where all the main characters sing a power song that reflects their own personal journey. The songs themselves are fun and inviting for all and are a welcomed addition to this animated feature, which are once again a mixture of old and new songs throughout the decades; catering to the young viewers out there as well as the adult viewers. Additionally, much as before, the film’s usage of songs are followed by big dance numbers, which will have a great enhancement to the feature’s narration and in the movie’s visual representation. Overall, I think that Jennings has found a winning formula with the first film and definitely builds upon that same notion with Sing 2; a solid sequel film that has plenty of heart, energy, and entertainment throughout.
Presentation-wise, I think that Sing 2 is a solid animated feature film endeavor that is (as of writing this review) Illumination Entertainment’s well-design project to date. What do I mean? Well, as seeing through their various other projects of the past, the studio has always had a slightly different swagger when it comes to its animation; offering a better visual presentation than others, but not exactly the same caliber as one would say from a production from Disney or Pixar. Still, Illumination has a great understanding in making its characters (and overall animation) have a uniqueness and style. This, of course, translates well into Sing 2, which has a much more detailed and richness of design throughout the entire runtime. Character designs have a bit more depth and detailed added and even background set pieces have that much more intricate displays for a more “popping” visual representation. As mentioned above, Sing 2 is more “visually” impressive than its predecessor and it sure does stand out. Heck, all the various locations found in the movie, including all the glitzy and glamour found in the Redshore City (something akin to a mixture of our world’s Hollywood and Las Vegas). Thus, the entire art direction department team as well as the all the animators that worked on the project should be commended for their efforts on this movie. As mentioned above, the film’s featured musical songs / covers are a definite treat throughout the entire film, but I do have to mention that the film’s score, which was composed by Joby Talbot and who originally did the scoring for the first Sing movie, continues his trend by crafting a pleasant animated musical composition that fits perfectly in this sequel. A solid score soundtrack through and through…..
There are a few problems that I had with Sing 2 that, while not derailing the movie or taking away from my overall enjoyment of the film, does keep this animated feature from surpassing the original movie. Perhaps the biggest struggle that the movie can’t overcome is in its originality and falling prey to some of the same old tropes that occurred in the first film. How so? Well, for the most part, the story of this cartoon sequel follows pretty much the same thing; finding Buster Moon and the gang performing a big show and facing personal obstacles along the way. Of course, this definitely works for the movie and is considered to be a winning formula for a lot of animated endeavor, yet the narrative tropes found in Sing 2 is quite predictable by recycling similar scenes / ideas and giving off a sense of “déjà vu” in a few parts, including grand musical charge finale. It’s all familiar and works for the feature’s music’s presentation, but Jennings seems to play the movie a bit too safe; finding Sing 2 to be more of a “comfort watch” than making something more bolder or originality.
Because of this notion, the movie can’t overcome the original film, with Sing 2 falling a bit short in comparison to the 2016 picture. In addition, the movie struggles to find character development within several of its characters. How so? Well, while the first Sing was able to establish all the character arcs in a well-mannered way that fit each respective character as well as the plot, what is shaped in Sing 2 doesn’t exactly quite pan out the right way. Of course, what’s given is suitable and works for the feature, but some character arcs / personal journeys are either a bit underwhelming and / or recycled ideas. In truth, the amount of characters in the first movie was a bit heavy at times, which is probably why the sequel didn’t bring back some characters such as John C. Reilly’s Eddie Noodleman and Seth McFarlane’s Mike, didn’t appear in this movie. However, Sing 2 does add several newcomers and I think a few could’ve been expanded upon, but this also causes a problem by spending too much time on these new players and not so much on certain characters. This causes some characters to be either too thin or having personal problems that don’t exactly pan out and (again) could’ve been easily expanded upon. Heck, I think that the movie could’ve (or rather should’ve been) an extra ten or so minutes longer than its 112 minutes (one hour and fifty two minutes) duration. Lastly, the story of Sing 2 is a bit messy at times. Again, the first feature had a better understanding of its characters and story (all working towards the same goal), with the feature building to a good point, but this sequel falls slightly in reaching the same point. I don’t know why how to exactly say it, but it’s kind of like that, with Sing 2 not reaching the same type of storytelling caliber. Perhaps if a few scenes were added or having different character arcs. Heck, maybe the film’s script should’ve been handled slightly better (someone should’ve co-wrote it with Jennings). All of this I sort of knew that was going to happen (a sort of commonplace sequel pitfall), so it didn’t bother me as much as some viewer might have about this animated sequel. Still, I just think that the feature could’ve had a better finesse in the storyboard / script handling department.
What definitely made the first Sing movie memorable was the various cast members that were selected to voice all of this wonderfully colorful characters. Thankfully, that winning piece carries over to this particular sequel, with most voice talents returning to reprise their respective character roles in Sing 2. At the head of the pack, actor Matthew McConaughey (Interstellar and The Wolf on Wall Street) returns to play Buster Moon, a koala theater owner who is always looking for his next big break. Much like before, the character of Buster Moon is mostly the “glue” that’s holding everything together in the feature; finding the optimist koala coming up with a big idea and running around trying to get everything working the proper way. It’s a bit redundant to what was done in the first film, but I think it works better than others. Thus, I felt that McConaughey’s Buster Moon, though a little bit the same as last time, still retains a lot of fun and humorous beats, with the actor finding a “pitch perfect” voice in the rambunctious “big dreamer” character.
The one main character who gets a different storyline arc to follow in the (from the last Sing film) is the character of Ash, a teenage punk rock porcupine guitarist, who is once again voiced by actress Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow and Her). Rather than recycling and / or falling back to the same tropes of the first feature, Ash does have a new storyline follow, which is closely tied to Moon trying to get Clay Calloway to join them for their stage production show. It’s fun way to expand upon the character and Johannsson is up to the task to make the character have a good (and wholesome) storyline in Sing 2. Behind her, the character of Rosita, a female pig who is a devoted housewife and mother of 25 piglets with dreams of a musical experience, returns with actress Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blonde and Water for Elephants) reprise the character again. Witherspoon is still as solid as ever in the role, with a very expressive / distinct sounding voice, which Rosita such a vibrant and colorful character in almost every scene. However, her character involvement in Sing 2 is a bit clunky, with another stage fright issues she has to overcome that sort of works out its own way; feeling like she didn’t learn anything. Plus, Rosita does get push aside in favor of another character, so it’s a bit disappointing. Still, Witherspoon’s Rosita continues to be a fine Sing character to follow once again. Likewise, the character of Gunter, the expressive and passionate dancer pig and who is voiced by actor Nick Kroll (The League and The Nick Kroll Show), turns another humorous role in Sing 2. Much like before, the character of Gunther is, more or less, a smaller comedic timing character and not as strong as the rest of the lead characters. This notion is perfectly fine in the movie as the memorable character does get his moments to shine in the movie and does give room for the rest of the members to give more. All in all, I think that Gunter is fine how he’s presented in Sing 2 and have no complaints about that.
Fan-favorite character Johnny, a teenage gorilla who left his father’s criminal gang to become a singer and pianist, gets his moment to shine once again in the film, with actor Taron Egerton (Rocketman and Kingsman: The Golden Circle) reprise his role beautifully. While Egerton is solid as ever in voicing such a character and his singing is just as crisp and lyrical as before, his character’s journey is a bit recycled from the previous Sing, with talented gorilla facing difficulty learning a new skill. It didn’t bother me as much as I loved the character and Egerton as Johnny’s voice as well as the plight fits into Sing 2’s plot nicely. Yet, one can tell that it a better substance of storytelling could’ve been added to beef up something new for the character to face in his own personal challenges. Still, for better or worse, I still love Johnny in Sing 2. Who actually ends up getting the shortest stick on the entire film would the character of Meena, the shy, yet powerful singing voice from the teenage elephant. Voiced by singer / actress Tori Kelly (The Masked Singer) once again, the character gets the least amount of screen time and perhaps the weakest character arc; finding her character nervous by kissing her co-star in a love duet song and finding romance with another. Of course, Kelly is still terrific in the role voice / singing performance of Meena, but it seems like her personal storyline got trimmed down in the film’s final editing process and could’ve been easily expanded upon for a better ending resolution that what was presented.
Of the newcomers of Sing 2, the character of Jimmy Crystal, fierce wolf and media mogul who runs Crystal Entertainment, makes the strongest / memorable impression of the group. Voiced by Bobby Cannavale (Boardwalk Empire and Blue Jasmine), the character of Jimmy acts as sort of the feature’s main antagonist, with Cannavale’s voice perfectly match the voracious apex predator wolf / business owner; something that the first Sing picture was sorely lacking in the villainy department. Thus, the character makes an impact on the feature and animated villain to watch on-screen. Behind him, I would say that the biggest surprise of the newcomer would be the character of Clay Calloway, the mega-talented, yet recently reclusive lion musician that Buster and his friends try to persuade to participate in their new stage production show. The character is voiced by U2 leader sing Bono, who actually does an impressive job in the role; voicing the aged rocker with a sense of immense pride, grizzled loneliness, and heartfelt regret. It’s a very complexed character and Bono certainly is up to the task in making the Clay come alive. Also, hearing Bono sing his U2 Song “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” in the movie was a delightful treat.
Next memorable newcomer of the film would be the character of Porsha Crystal, Jimmy Crystal’s spoiled teenage daughter that wants to participate in Moon’s new stage production show. Voiced by singer Halsey, the character is an amusing, playing up the teenage angst / vibe as well as the pronounce accent with her voice. She’s definitely a fun character to add to the mix with the rest of the Sing roster cast as well as it’s great that she has a strong singing voice, which is shown through her various songs such as “It Could’ve Been Me”. I love that song! The last supporting newcomer character in the movie belongs to Nooshy, a streetwise lynx cat who helps Johnny regain his confidence by helping him with his choreography workout routine. Voiced by actress Letitia Wright (Black Panther and Humans), the character is somewhat “breath of fresh air”; providing a lot of humorous bits and good companion to the character of Johnny. It’s also quite clear that Wright is enjoying her time playing such a playful character in the film. The only downside to the character is that she doesn’t get a whole lot of time to be fully developed in the movie; acting as a slight mentor to Johnny. It’s a just a tad disappointing because Wright is great as Nooshy and just wish her character was expanded upon a bit more. Hopefully, if another sequel is greenlit, that her character will return and that she will have her own personal story arc to follow.
The rest of the cast, including actor Nick Offerman (The Founder and Parks and Recreation) as Rosita’s husband Norman, actor Peter Serafinowicz (Spy and The Tick) as Johnny gangster father Big Daddy, actress Jennifer Saunders (Shrek 2 and Absolutely Fabulous) as famed elderly singer Nana Noodleman, actor Adam Buxton (Hot Fuzz and Stardust) as the stern dance instructor Klaus Kickenblober, musician singer Pharrell Williams (The Grinch) as an ice cream vendor who becomes Meena’s love interest named Alfonso, singer / actress / writer Chelsea Peretti (Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Harvey Girls Forever!) as Jimmy Crystal’s assistant and talent Scout called Suki, actor Eric Andre (The Mitchells vs. the Machines and The Internship) as an egocentric stage performer who stars opposite of Meena in a romantic duet named Darius, actress Julia Davis (Camping and Love Actually) as talk show host Linda Le Bon, and actor Spike Jonze (Three Kings and Where the Wild Things Are) as Jimmy Crystal’s loyal personal assistant Jerry, are delegated to minor supporting character roles throughout the movie. Some do have larger roles than others, but I think that all are solid across the board. Lastly, I do have mention that Jennings once again provides the voice of Miss Crawly, Buster Moon’s elderly iguana assistant, returns for this sequel and makes an even more hilarious addition as a minor supporting character in this roster. Plus, Jennings’s voice is spot on and delivers all of the lines for Miss Crawley perfectly.
It’s time for “dream big dreams” once again as Buster Moon and his friends put on a theatrical stage show that will “make or break” them all in the movie Sing 2. Director Garth Jennings latest film continues the adventure of animal singing / dancing gang from the original 2016 film and builds upon it in a very visual presentation that is fine addition of music, dance moves, and dreaming of big dreams. While the movie does fall prey to the feature playing it slightly a bit too safe (never coloring outside the lines) as well as recycling several ideas, the film itself is still a music extravaganza sequel journey, especially thanks to Jennings’s familiarity with the project, a great visual representation, catchy songs, plenty of heart and humor, and great cast of voice talents that are both new and old with the Sing property. Personally, I liked this movie. Of course, it doesn’t surpass the original Sing movie and that a few areas are a bit repetitive / familiar beats, but it does make for a great follow-up animated adventure that provides of visual colorful fun and lyrical music sequences. Plus, the voice talents are still just as strong as ever and the film still has plenty of heart and charismatic throughout. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is solid “highly recommended” as fans of the first film will enjoy this sequel as well as the feature’s target demographic of the younger tween crowd. Definitely a solid family friendly movie night picture to enjoy. Like before, the film’s ending sort of closes out the narrative being told, but there is always a possibility for another continuation and I, for one, would love to see Sing 3 materialize sometime in the near future. In the end, Sing 2 is what you would expect from this animated sequel and, while the movie doesn’t reinvent itself in this second outing, the film still finds its lyrical rhythm of colorful animation, solid voice work, and a catchy music rolodex for a fun and an entertaining viewing experience for all ages. Short answer…. if you liked the first film, you’ll like Sing 2.
4.2 Out of 5 (Highly Recommended)
Released On: December 22nd, 2021
Reviewed On: January 31st, 2022
Sing 2 is 112 minutes long and rated PG for some rude material and mild peril/violence