The sequel to Sing is as perfunctory and over-stuffed as its predecessor.
Aadrman’s original 1989 Creature Comforts did something unique. Director Nick Park took interviews with everyday Britain residents and then put those vocals into the mouths of stop-motion animated zoo animals. The result was fascinating, as two disparate elements combined to tap into the daily woes which inform our lives. Whether you’re a lion trapped in an exhibit, or a man just yearning for the space of your original home country, melancholy emotions are universal.
Sing 2 is reminiscent of Creature Comforts, but not in an interesting or bold way. Instead, the film feels as if writer/director Garth Jennings just took the audio from a star-studded karaoke session and put those vocal tracks to generically animated CG animals. The tunes don’t have specific meaning to many of the critters singing them, nor do they seem to reflect the personal preferences of Jennings himself. The disparity between what you heard and saw in Creature Comforts tickled your brain. That same gap in Sing 2 just reeks of wanting to make the most marketable product possible.
Taking place an unspecified amount of time after its predecessor, Sing 2 picks up with Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) trying to get his plucky troupe of actors an even bigger gig. So far, though, no talent scouts have seen the group’s potential. Determined to ace auditions for a new ritzy show owned by Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale), Moon and friends set out for Las Vegas stand-in Red Shore City. Here, an impromptu concept for a space musical from Gunther (Nick Kroll) grabs Crystal’s attention and gives everyone a chance at stardom.
Now tasked with putting on a glamorous show that won’t embarrass the violent Crystal, Sing 2 splits its plot up into a series of storylines as this big musical comes together. Among these are the plight of middle-aged pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), who has to settle for a throwaway part in the production after her vertigo sabotages her chance to land the starring role. Meanwhile, gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton) has his version of Whiplash with a strict dancing coach, and porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson) tries to coax reclusive rock star Clink Calloway (Bono) to participate in their show.
To quote Grandpa Simpson, in Sing 2 there are simply “too many singing animals nowadays, please eliminate three, I am not a crackpot.” Despite an inexcusable 113-minute runtime, Jennings’ screenplay doesn’t flesh out these critters, or their struggles enough to make them interesting. Once the finale arrives and tidy conclusions emerge for each of the arcs, I found myself shocked by how I was apparently supposed to be invested in the plight of characters like bratty wolf teenager Porsha (Halsey).
Sing 2 has its grand conclusions all figured out, but it doesn’t provide the necessary build-up to make those endings mean anything. It doesn’t help that some of the storylines are clumsily structured. Most notably, Johnny wraps up his dancing woes in the middle of the story only for the climax to abruptly resuscitate the subplot. This is the clearest example of the film’s attempt to cram its characters into traditional narrative molds instead of letting compelling individuals guide the film to new and exciting places.
A major disappointment in Sing 2 is that it doesn’t fix its predecessor’s issue of being self-conscious of being a musical. Once again, characters’ singing is largely limited to when they’re on-stage performing. Even then, we usually get only snippets of their tracks long enough for the audience to go “Ah, I recognize that song!” before the story moves on. Sing 2 treats pop songs like Ready Player One treated 1980s pop culture, as something to be utilized for quick trips down memory lane and nothing more.
The songs that do appear are largely a jumble of pop ditties that have dominated the charts in the last eight years. Choosing these tracks isn’t just uninspired, but it misses a chance to pick more specific songs that could reflect the characters of Sing 2 and their personalities. Among the few 20th-century tunes appearing here are a trio of U2 songs because Bono is in the cast. At least the voice actors can sing decently well, but all those vocals are used for are passable but forgettable covers. They’re certainly not pieces of music that can put a grin on your face or stir up your heart.
Speaking of vocals, the star-studded cast of Sing 2 is certainly trying its best to inject life into a mechanical production. Everyone, especially actors like Cannavale voicing antagonistic characters, is playing things as broadly as possible, which can make for some fun line deliveries. However, the thinly sketched nature of the characters means there’s little in the way of specific details for these energetic voices to latch onto. The most memorable of these performers is probably Eric Andre as a conceited yak, and that’s because it’s unspeakably strange to hear a guy who usually uses his voice for such surrealistic pranks singing an Ed Sheeran cover.
Between both Sing movies, Garth Jennings has delivered something that resonates with its target demo and there are worse things for parents to get dragged to over the holiday season. Still, it’s a pity that the success of its predecessor didn’t inspire Sing 2 to take more imaginative or fun turns, instead delivering a movie that has too many characters and too light on music. This animated feature isn’t so much singing off-key as it is whistling a tune you’ve heard a thousand times before.
Sing 2 opens in theaters December 22nd.