Tori Kelly, Reese Witherspoon, Taron Egerton, Nick Kroll, Matthew McConaughey, Garth Jennings, Jennifer Saunders, Chelsea Peretti, Scarlett Johansson, Bobby Cannavale, Nick Offerman, Adam Buxton, Eric André, Halsey, Letitia Wright, Bono, Pharrell Williams, Julia Davis, Peter Serafinowicz
What defines a successful sequel? Is it more of the same? Variations on a theme? Or is it something radically different? Sing 2 takes the middle tack, but is that enough?
For animated features, the question is a bit nebulous. Some of the best animated sequels have been nearly identical to the original, just with a slightly different plot. Yet, there are a few that manage to take the same theme and twist it beyond its origins and still come out better for it. Monsters University is a great Pixar example while The Secret Life of Pets 2 is a solid example for Illumination. That brings us to Sing 2, which is another Illumination production. Like the Secret Life of Pets sequel, the narrative is shifted into a new milieu that includes a few extra themes than the original, namely an organized crime angle. That’s the same direction Sing 2 goes, except it shifts venues as well as adding the crime element.
Sing 2 is a solid, sometimes exciting, and frequently engaging sophomore effort about a group of anthropomorphic animals who gained fame in the prior film by becoming musical legends in Buster Moon’s (Matthew McConaughey) theater as part of a singing contest intended to revive his flagging bottom line. Back for another go are Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), Ash (Scarlett Johansson), Johnny (Taron Egerton), Meena (Tori Kelly), and Gunter (Nick Kroll). This time around, the plot involves Buster’s desire to move from one thriving metropolis to the show capital of the world: a Las Vegas-inspired sea of casinos and stage shows.
After failing to convince a talent scout to give his show a chance, he and the crew concoct a plan to get before Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale), a hotel owner who initially rejects their performance until he learns that they can get reclusive singer/songwriter Clay Calloway (Bono) to take part in their show. One problem is that they don’t actually no him. The other is that Crystal insists his daughter Porsha (Halsey) be in the show, taking on the lead role. Except, as expected, she cannot act even if she can sing beautifully.
The biggest issues with the film come down to familiarity, predictability, and a notable drop in song quality. The story is very familiar. We’ve seen it done in countless ways many times before even if not in this film’s predecessor. Sometimes familiar can work, but only if it throws in some genuine surprises. Unfortunately, there are few of them. Most of what happens takes a trajectory we know and expect. There are some cute twists in there, but nothing spectacular. Then there’s the songs. While it seemed like they were trying to target a younger audience with some of the selections, it was the older tracks that really drove the film’s success. “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Where the Streets Have No Name,” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” were each given prominent positions, which emphasizes that notion while the interim songs, especially in the final act, just didn’t feel as impactful as they should have.
Illumination is the animation house that the Minions built thanks to successful Despicable Me and its sequels and spinoffs. Yet, that franchise has grown a bit stale while their other attempts to freshen up their brand are doing much better. The Secret Life of Pets films are their best in terms of overall quality. Sing, and now Sing 2, are quite a bit of fun, but they sit right in the middle of their output and that’s only because the first two Despicable Me films are severely hampered by the third film in the series and the Minions spinoffs, which are largely inconsequential.
Thankfully, Sing 2 isn’t a disappointment and that keeps it from suffering the Despicable Me 3 curse. We will see if this film and The Secret Life of Pets can keep the spirit alive with their third features…if they actually get them.
November 16, 2022