Directed By Garth Jennings
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly
The Plot – Buster Moon (McConaughey) and his friends must persuade reclusive rock star Clay Calloway (Bono) to join them for the opening of a new show.
Rated PG for some rude material and mild peril/violence
– Eclectic soundtrack. Once again, the more than forty tracks distributed throughout the entirety of the movie bring with them a barrage of artists and genre’s that are sure to satisfy any fan, but this time the selections themselves actually come with a distinguishable meaning that warrants their materializing. Considering our group of animals-turned-singers embark on a completely new show, the themes of the show themselves reflect the lyrical impulses of the accommodating artists, helping to elude much of the randomness and purposelessness that made the first film feel like nothing more than an impulse to sell downloads. As for the material itself, everyone from U2, to Ariana Grande, to even System of a Down is capitalized on brilliantly, with some selections playing into a visual sight gag, and others committing themselves to moving performances with no shortage of emotional resonance for their rendering.
– Charming ensemble. I mentioned during my review of the first film how surprising the vocal capacities and depth of the talented cast lend themselves so seamlessly to the vibrance of their on-screen personas, and such a case can be doubled down for this sequel. McConaughey is once again shape-shifting as Buster Moon, balancing an eagerness with a softer sincerity that truly articulates the love and care he has for his talented performers, and really serving as the brains and heart of the on-the-road operation. In addition to Matthew, I found the addition of U2 frontman Bono to be the supreme show-stealer while eluding any semblance of familiarity in his vocal diameter. Instead of the falsetto range that have earned him countless Grammy Awards, there’s a gruff enveloping to the abundance of personality he deposits wholeheartedly to the character, allowing him to disappear into the role for some truly remarkable voice acting. Scarlett Johansson is also a nourishing blanket of warmth as Ash, often serving as the calming before the proverbial storm that helps keep this group in the right state of mind, while also measuring her range in a way that audibly works cohesively with the animated design of the character.
– Confidence builder. I’ve found much of Illumination Studios animated work to be solid enough between a growing library of films, but never anything to the level of challenging Pixar or Laika for silver screen dominance. That change could be set in motion with the achievements littered casually throughout the entirety of the film in various backdrops and set textures. Everything from shadow-play, to tile-shining, to the beautiful three-dimensional persistence in character designs, everything here feels like a vast improvement for this studio, and one that could serve as the potential building block for future ambitions. This is all cemented while attaining the same polished glow from its presentation, which enhances the appeal of a buffet of colorful exuberance, while bringing to life the kind of fantastical escapism for setting that breeds imagination in the context of the youthful audience they entrance.
– Story equals substance. In my opinion, I found “Sing 2” to exceed its predecessor, as a result of the pivotal focus it conveys to the meat of its screenplay. As to where the first film really centered entirely around this talent show, with a musical performance being displayed every three minutes or so, this installment dedicates itself and a majority of its minutes to an accommodating storytelling, which seems to outline an arc for every character involved in the engagement. The balance of each arc isn’t always ideal, as I will get to later, but I did appreciate the attempt to make this anything but a formulaic successor that rests on the laurels of an outline and structure that has already been proven successful. It proves that chances were taken to enhance the material with a greater sense of purpose and thematic pulse, to which the script constantly taps into, outlining depth in a way that not only adds value to each of the characters as a result of many pocketed conflicts, but also helps to keep the material from feeling derivative or redundant in the laziness that could’ve easily defined it as a cash-grab sequel.
– Comic muscle. What also helped to push this film along with my increasing interest, was a charm in personality that gaged all of my sweet spots for what is essentially deemed “Child humor”. For my money, it’s the visual sight gags here that are most effective in rendering a reaction, in that they often reach for energetic exaggerations that are complimented entirely by the magnitude of the corresponding animation, all the while offering something that can easily be enjoyed by audiences of every age demographic. The humor itself isn’t insulting by reaching for the kind of low-hanging fruit in toilet humor or zany noises that underscores the intelligence range of youths, and considering a bulk of this film’s subplots give way to lunacy in the form of the occasional death-defying circumstances for our crew, it provides an appreciative self-awareness that is all the more accommodating for the brand of humor its creators are very in-tuned with.
– Glamorous direction. Part of what made first-time director Garth Jennings the right man for the job during the first “Sing”, was his photography for the presentation, which clearly highlighted a man of many angles and cerebral swings of the lens for the engagement. That same perspective is brought to “Sing 2”, but this time with more of a spectacle to the aesthetics, which seamlessly transfer a broadcast quality to the movie’s imagery. In fact, the abundance of personality that permeates effortlessly from Jennings creative vantage point, captures the energy and intensity of the emotional magnitude being deposited in vocal talents, and when combined with the magnitude of corresponding sets, captivates us with gripping magnetism that breeds authenticity in the form of a television broadcast, and one that Jennings takes ample time articulating in his meaningful production.
– Claustrophobic pacing. While I appreciated the addition of a corresponding story and ensuing subplots that persisted off-stage, the full extent of their value are never fully realized, as a result of eccentric pacing that limits their growth. For a movie that is 107 minutes from bell to bell, it’s discouraging that not enough of an attempt can be made to dedicated the proper time to each of them, and as a result we get some subplots that are severely imbalanced from some of the others with the same level of importance to the script. It’s difficult to say this, but I still feel like this film has a bit too many song performances that take too much away from the pie of allowance, and with the exception of Bono’s Clay Calloway, completely underwrite the abundance of fresh faces that potentially add something compelling from the arc’s that are asked of them. This is obviously the bread and butter for this respective franchise, but if it comes at the cost of stunting the growth of originality, I would rather it abide by the concept of less is more, that way it can further extend the characterization from the voices that go into these spirited audio showcases.
– Simplicity. On a typical approach, there’s certainly nothing wrong with a film that constantly remains at eye level with its audience. However, when that intention cuts into the interpretation that should be teaching instead of feeding, it results in catered dialogue that doesn’t always require the most dedicated of investments, and phones in the summarization with a lesson that is anything but original to a story like this. In fact, the ‘follow your dreams’ ambition that steered much of the first film and its characters to find their voice, is the same exact one that persists in this sequel, providing a hinderance of growth to the franchise that works against its improvements, instead of for it in a way that could’ve proved something exceptional for this sequel. Thematic impulses should change and expand with each following film, and the redundancy here just kind of limits the extent of its growth without supplanting anything substantial for the long haul.
– Shamefully filthy. Did you truly think that a film from Illumination Studios could ever escape the necessity in creating wacky supporting characters whose soul intention is to sell toys? As if it was right on schedule, the halfway point of this movie introduces us to a barrage of short, funny-sounding, big-eyed characters whose only intention is to assist during a temporary conflict. Sound familiar? Maybe I would be able to forgive this aspect in my negatives for the minimal amount (Two scenes) they’re on-screen throughout the film, but considering this studio has done this with literally every movie they’ve made to this point, I can’t overlook this unflattering instance, especially considering how unnecessary it was in the first place. While I myself don’t like anything about the Minions, I can understand why everyone fell in love with them in the first place, but every attempt since recreate its appeal has gone obviously noticed, and feels even more tacky when deposited into this particular world of sincerity and heartful innocence.
My Grade: 7/10 or B-