Movie Review: ‘Sing 2’

Director: Garth Jennings

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, Garth Jennings, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Serafinowicz

Plot: Buster Moon is still producing shows for starring the characters from the first film, but they don’t impress a talent scout from the showbiz capital Redshore City. In response, they travel to Redshore City and con their way into a major theatrical production.

Review: The original Sing did not endear itself to me, as it represented a distillation of all the things that irk me about Illumination animated films. The driving force behind the company ethos seems to be cost-cutting production and mass market appeal, leaving everything they produce feeling hollow. They may well appeal to you, that’s certainly the intent. The casting and ensemble cast of characters are designed to appeal to as many people as possible. It relies on simple stories and character arcs to keep things light.

Rather than advancing the character’s stories…because there isn’t really anywhere for them to go…this movie resets things so that everyone is once again pursuing their dream of being a singer but have to overcome a fear. Johnny (Egerton), for example, still wants to be a singer but now has to dance but doesn’t know how. Rosita (Witherspoon) is afraid of a big stunt she has to do and has to overcome this fear. Actually, her one had a modicum of stakes since there’s a rival potentially taking her lead role. There’s a couple of new characters, but they are remarkably more shallow than the original cast. For example, there’s Nooshy (Wright), who teaches Johnny to dance. She meets him in one scene, she teaches him to dance in her second, he succeeds in her third and that’s the entire character. Having so many animals running around means that everyone only gets about 5 minutes of screen time apiece to get their entire story told.

Add to this that the plot struggles to make the good guys look good. After not getting invited to an audition, the self-entitled Buster Moon (McConaughey) and his troupe consider their ‘dreams’ gives them to right to get their way and they crash the audition. After failing to impress, they lie to get the job and then have to convince the retired and reclusive legend Clay Calloway (Bono) to get over his grief and participate in their show for their sake of their ‘dreams’. The bad guy is an unrepentant psychopath, constantly threatening to throw Buster off buildings to try and justify Buster’s actions but it’s still his own lies and sense of entitlement that got him into this situation.

When it comes to an animated feature, I don’t need a great deal of a constructed realism to enjoy the story. It’s about singing animals putting on a sci-fi musical, we can give it plenty of leeway on this front. Yet, somehow, the story beggars belief. Putting on a special effects musical epic, from elevator pitch to opening night, in only two weeks is a bit silly but whatever. Then we get a horde of weird looking creatures who learn an entire tap-dance routine with zero previous dance training, who then all put on a perfect choreographed performance on a moving stage and have full matching costumes…all in the few minutes while the rest of the cast gets ready to go on stage. Lazy script-writing moments like this really make it feel like no-one really cared about this story.

Similarly, the animation always looks like they’ve tried to cut as many corners as possible. When you start noticing that none of the characters have nostrils, you can’t help but always notice it. Their noses don’t go anywhere, they just have little indents. They don’t have earholes, either. The pigs just have flaps of skin with no ear underneath it. It’s unsettling, like a reverse trypophobia. Then there’s the copy/pasting of character assets. The many crowd shots and outdoor areas are filled with the same small group of character models being copied over and over again. There’s a few audience shots with giraffes in it, and it’s the same giraffe over and over again with no variation in size, colour, pattern. Pick one animal and see if how many times they recur. The most distracting instance of this happens when they arrive in or leave Redshore City and we see large screens showing celebrities…and they’re the same bunch of extras they put in every background.

Not that it’s a complete dirge, we thought the story between Ash (Johansson) and Calloway was quite well handled. The whole character of Calloway and the casting of Bono confuses us though. Calloway is a singer who performs songs by real life band U2…but they cast real singer of U2 Bono in the role. The story of this character and the motivation behind writing his songs are different to that of real life singer, so the casting muddles the real world with the fictional in a way that doesn’t make sense.

They did get rid of Seth McFarlane’s asshole mouse character and didn’t over any explanation as to where he went, so kudos for that.

We did actually bring some of the target audience with us to the screening – a squad of nine-year-olds with an interest in pop music. They got sugared up and had a great time with it. They loved the new characters of Nooshy and Porsha (Halsey) and really enjoyed the soundtrack. They might offer their own perspective in a future review. But for now…

Rating: TWO out of TEN