For better or worse, Illumination will always be known as the studio that gave an extended life to Minions. Originally something of a throwaway gag to provide easy laughs within the Despicable Me films, they took on a force of their own and seemed to pull focus from any other studio property. One such charmer that by no means went unnoticed – it grossed in upwards of $630 million – but didn’t earn the same type of reputation was 2016’s Sing. A jukebox musical that was incredibly crowd-pleasing, if a little forgettable, its typically star-studded voice cast proved enough of a draw for the masses to push the standard underdog narrative to a viable enough figure to grant a second helping.
Thankfully not entirely rehashing the first film’s plot, Sing 2 – the most original of titles – opts for a grander scale in setting by moving its action to Redshore City, a glitzy town that is essentially Vegas for the G-rated crowd. Hustling koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), once again optimistic that his talented crew of misfits have enough vocal goods to impress Redshore hotelier Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Canavale), over-promises on the idea that he is in talks with reclusive rock star Clay Calloway (U2 frontman Bono) to produce a musical that’ll serve as the music legend’s grand return to the stage. We all know that such talks haven’t taken place, just as much as we know the rough exterior Clay showcases will eventually be broken down, but Jimmy is (somewhat) blissfully unaware, merely hoping his threats of violence against the scrappy Buster will be enough.
Though Buster hoping to entice Clay out of reclusion is at the core of Sing 2, this plot strand assisted by not-so-successful musician and bona fide Calloway fan Ash (Scarlett Johansson), the film does a fine job of reuniting the original film’s ensemble and giving them enough focus in their own narratives. Taron Egerton‘s impressive pipes are back behind Johnny, a gorilla who is hoping he can overcome his fear of dancing to perfect his show-stopping number in Buster’s intended show. Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a momma pig enjoying time away from motherly duties, feels warranted in her talent when handed the show’s lead role, but a fear of heights potentially puts her on the back foot and in the shadow of Jimmy’s bratty, Hilton-like daughter, Porsha (Halsey). And Meena (Tori Kelly), the shy elephant who literally found her voice in the first film, is both trying to overcome her introversion enough to speak to Alfonso (Pharrell Williams), a fellow elephant she has a crush on, and muster any type of chemistry with Darius (Eric Andre), a self-absorbed yak she is duetting with.
With so many characters all overcoming their own fears and obstacles, Sing 2, at times, feels like a more episodic production, with the players rarely interacting with each other. Whilst each character’s own vignette is suitably entertaining, the film feels stronger when they are able to work together; this particularly evident in one of the film’s finest sight gags where, hoping to sneak into Jimmy’s expansive hotel, the crew pose as janitors, cleaning the surroundings in a manner that brings to mind some of the finest silent comedy work from Charlie Chaplin’s heyday.
Once again directed by Garth Jennings, the filmmaker a far cry from his live-action beginnings – he directed The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and the 2008 festival darling Son of Rambow – Sing 2, whilst not exactly reaching for anything overly profound, is warmly helmed by someone who clearly just wants his audience to feel good. It’s simplistic and uplifting, and features one helluva soundtrack, and though more so aimed at children, it’s harmless and charming enough to prove not a waste of time for the adults in tow, most of whom are likely to appreciate the music on hand and the story’s emphasis on just how special someone like Bono – or Clay, the white-maned lion – truly is to the medium.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Sing 2 is screening in Australian theatres from December 26th, 2021.