BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Seeing “Sing 2” is a lot like hearing a favorite song again. There remains a lot to like but nothing compares to the joy felt the first time. The beats that made the animated “Sing” a hit are there but nothing has been done to make the arrangement feel different. “Sing 2” is good but is missing that element of discovery from the first film.
“Sing” introduced the characters of: the success-seeing koala, Buster (voiced by Matthew McConaughy); very busy mother pig, Rosita (Reese Witherspoon); hard rocking porcupine, Ash (Scarlett Johansson); the brooding ape Johnny (Taron Egerton); and shy elephant, Meena (Tori Kelly). This class menagerie was brought together by Buster for a singing competition he needs to save this theater.
The singers are no longer fighting like animals but are performing together in a musical at Buster’s New Moon Theater. Buster’s desire for bigger and better sends the group on a road trip to the flashy Redshore City (think Las Vegas) where they hope to convince a ruthless mogul (Bobby Cannavle) to let them perform their show in his hotel.
That idea gets rejected but the last minute pitch of a space opera gives the pack of performers hope. The only catch is they have made the almost impossible promise to get a reclusive singer (Bono) to come out of retirement to be part of the production.
All of these characters are used by writer/director Garth Jennings to get across some very strong teaching elements for the younger members of the audience. He shows that there is more to the power of music than creating a flashy stage show and being the driving force to be successful.
There are very tender moments such as Rosita facing a fear so psychologically devastating that she loses out on her big break. Jennings makes his points with a subtle touch and not by trying to drive the point home with an artistic hammer.
One of the best threads has to do with Bono’s character. His king of the beasts, Clay Calloway, has turned his back on the music world that brought him so much fame, fortune and enjoyment. The death of his wife has made it impossible for him to even listen to one of his songs.
Calloway’s journey out of the emotional darkness pays off in the film’s show-stopping number. Casting Bono is just one of the many superb characters added for this sequel. Other new characters are voiced by Pharrell Williams, Black Panther’s Letitia Wright and comedians Eric André and Chelsea Peretti.
“Sing 2” also continues the use of popular music. The sequel includes works by Billie Eilish, Drake, The Weeknd, Prince, Taylor Swift, BTS, Cardi B, Bad Bunny, J Balvin, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello. Look for the U2 original tune, “Your Song Saved My Life,” to get some Oscar buzz.
There are new voice actors and a new playlist of musical works to be performed by the critter characters. And the setting is bigger. But, in the end, “Sing 2” follows the same blueprint that was created for the original “Sing.” There’s nothing wrong with familiarity. It’s just not as artistically exciting as a close encounter of the first kind.
Youngsters won’t care that “Sing” and “Sing 2” follow familiar tracks because the movie has been given a quick pace by Jennings and loaded with colorful animals, places and things. Adults might experience a little “deja view” if they saw the original but there are far problems a movie can experience.
The main thing is that “Sing 2” is still a movie that comes at the right time. After such a long and tough year, it is nice to have a fun, family-friendly film on which to end the year. That is definitely something to “Sing” (or “Sing 2”) about.
If the new restrictions caused by the COVID surge don’t disrupt life at the movie theaters, “Sing 2” can be seen starting Dec. 22.
Movie review: 3 stars
Cast: Matthew McConaughy, Reese Witherspoon, Bono, Scarlett Johannson, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Pharrell Williams.
Director: Garth Jennings
Rated: PG for rude material, violence, peril
Running time: 110 minutes.