Sing 2 (AFI Review): Symphonic Sequel Hits All the Right Notes
Thanks to tons of toe-tapping tunes and a charismatic voice cast, Sing 2 is a heartwarming crowdpleaser of the highest order.
Though it’s been five years since the first Sing was released, the film has nevertheless embedded itself into our cultural consciousness, especially if you have children. Off the strength of the movie’s staggeringly successful soundtrack (featuring fun renditions of hits like “Shake It Off,” “I’m Still Standing,” and “Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing”), Sing became a critical and commercial sensation at the end of 2016, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Best Animated Feature Film and $634.2 million at the worldwide box office, making it the highest grossing Illumination Entertainment film outside of the Despicable Me franchise and the first The Secret Life of Pets. Naturally, when you have a winner like that on your hands, a sequel is in order, and, after half a decade, it’s finally set to hit theaters this Christmas. And, thankfully, those who worried that Sing 2 would be anything other than an enormously enjoyable (and epically emotional) bit of big-screen entertainment can put their fears to rest, as the cast and crew have delivered once more with a follow-up that matches the musical magic of the original.
After the events of the first Sing, the boisterous Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey, of Dallas Buyers Club and Interstellar) has been selling out show after show at the stupendously successful Moon Theater, but he still longs for more, setting his sights on a splashy premiere at the Crystal Tower Theater, housed in the ravishing Redshore City. Though they’re turned away by talent scout after talent scout, Moon refuses to give up, taking his whole crew – including the punk rocker porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson, of Black Widow and Marriage Story), the plucky pig housewife Rosita (Reese Witherspoon, of Big Little Lies and The Morning Show), the meek elephant Meena (singer Tori Kelly), and the musically gifted gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton, of Kingsman: The Secret Service and Rocketman) – to the offices of Crystal Entertainment, run by the ruthless Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale, of Ant-Man and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle). While Crystal couldn’t possibly be less interested in their initial pitch, his ears perk up when Moon mentions the possibility of luring lion rock legend Clay Calloway (U2’s Bono) out of reclusion and retirement to prominently feature in their show. The only problem? No one’s seen him in 15 years. And if Moon can’t find a way to bring him back, he’ll face the fury of Crystal (and public humiliation).
Sure, some could say that the “formula” for the Sing films is somewhat simple (pick out a plethora of hit songs, whip up a few silly subplots for the cast of colorful characters, throw in some sentiment in the third act, and call it a day), but it’s still oh so satisfying to experience in the moment regardless, and despite these claims of their supposedly “straightforward” storytelling, both films manage to earn every major comedic and emotional beat, never coming across as overly orchestrated or inorganic in any regard. The story in Sing 2 may not be all that different from the first film structurally either (with the focus once again on “putting on a show”), but there are enough distinctive differences to make the sequel stand out. For starters, the theme of this film’s show is “Out Of This World,” a sci-fi spectacular that lends itself to particularly arresting sequences of animated spectacle, especially with musical numbers set on separate “planets,” each with their own unique “vibe” – Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars,” sung by Egerton’s Johnny, is fancifully featured during a chaotic conflict on the “War Planet,” Aretha Franklin’s “I Say A Little Prayer” is playfully performed on the “Love Planet,” and so on and so forth. Somehow, this film’s finale even tops that of the first Sing’s, and it’s all due to this increased imagination for the show’s style (though the soundtrack is stellar throughout, starting with the outstanding opening number set to Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”).
However, the sequel must also receive a shoutout for its skillful juggling of several stirring subplots, with each advancing the character arcs of our primary protagonists in deeply felt fashion. Sentimentality – as mentioned above – has always been a strong suit of the Sing series, but it’s even better integrated to the story here than it was before, as every main character is given a compelling challenge to overcome that excites our emotions – Rosita’s fear of certain stunts in the show put her at risk of losing the lead role, Johnny doubts himself as a dancer due to his terrifying trainer and starts to notice his confidence slipping away, and Meena struggles with the romantic element of her song, especially since she’s never been in a relationship herself. On first glance, these stakes may feel small, but they’re represented in a way that makes them relatable to every audience member and, therefore, all the more touching when they reach their individual riveting resolutions. With that being said though, the strongest subplot is undoubtedly Ash’s, in which she confronts Clay Calloway – her long-time role model – herself and helps him work through his grief following his wife’s death 15 years prior.
It’s mightily moving stuff, made even more powerful by Bono’s winsome voice work as Calloway, and it proves to be the tender thematic throughline of Sing 2 as a whole, exploring how, even when we feel like we’re at our most lost, we can be “found” by our friends and family, who lead us back to the light. Buster’s back-and-forth with Crystal is easily the least engaging storyline in Sing 2 (mainly due to the fact that Crystal is a very one-dimensional antagonist who never changes over the course of the film), but it hardly even registers when every other relationship – and especially the one between Ash and Calloway – is as effortlessly emotive as they are. And in the end, that’s what we’re left with – a series of supremely sentimental story threads that may not aim to amaze our head but sure hit us square in the heart, coalescing to create one of the most charming, cheerful, and aesthetically captivating animated movies of 2021. It’s a rare occurrence for a sequel to even come close to its predecessor’s potency, but Sing 2 is that rare follow-up that fans might even prefer to the first film.
Sing 2 had its World Premiere at the AFI Fest on November 14, 2021. The film will be released theatrically in the US and select countries on December 22, and in the UK and Ireland on January 28, 2022.
Don’t miss our monthly updates with film news, movie-inspired recipes and exclusive content! You’ll only hear from us once a month. #nospam