Cute animated sequel hits almost all the right U2 notes.
You know when the Big Bad Wolf threatens to throw the dreamer koala Buster Moon off a building, he’s clearly the bad guy. And even if Buster delivers the goods, the wolf still doesn’t change. But I’m getting a head of myself.
That’s part of the set-up to “Sing 2,” the sequel to Illumination’s 2016 animated hit about rising animal singers covering classic hits, and making it big. But they’re not greedy or spoiled, unlike the villain. They still keep their domestic values in tact. Rosita the singing pig still loves her husband and piglets, while Ash the rocker porcupine quits performing for her sexist boss.
Both “Sing” movies, written and directed by Garth Jennings, aren’t animated classics, because they can be obvious and hyper, but they are cute and delightful for their bright colors, talented voice actors, and high spirits. And that applies to this sequel.
The returning voice actors include Matthew McConaughey as Buster Moon, Scarlett Johansson as Ash, Reese Witherspoon as Rosita, Nick Kroll as her dancing pig partner Gunter, Tori Kelly as the shy elephant Meena, Taron Egerton as the gorilla singer Johnny, Jennings as the old lizard Miss Crawley, and Jennifer Saunders as the diva sheep Nana Noodleman who sponsors them.
They head over to Redshore City, which is like if New York, Las Vegas, and Universal Studios Citywalk collaborated, to promote their talents to the Big Bad Wolf Jimmy Crystal (voiced by Bobby Cannavale), who is so mean-spirited and hostile, he pushes the red button on all the auditionees. Then, Gunter says they’re working on a Sci-Fi project with the one and only lion rocker Clay Calloway (voiced by U2 legend Bono) making a comeback. That’s when Jimmy gives them the crew to build the sets, and that’s when he threatens to throw Buster off a building.
The problem with Calloway is that he’s so broken up by the death of his wife, who inspired all his songs, that he “still hasn’t found what he’s looking for.” That’s when Ash becomes the voice of reason for him.
The new voice actors include Halsey as Jimmy’s spoiled daughter Porsche, who takes Rosita’s lead role, but ends up becoming the epitome of why Madonna should stick to just singing and why Sofia Coppola should stick to just directing. Eric Andre is Meena’s romantic co-star, while Pharrell Williams (an Illumination regular) is the elephant of her dreams. Letitia Wright (“Black Panther”) plays a streetwise cat, who teaches Johnny to dance to show his pushy instructor who’s boss. And Chelsea Peretti (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) plays Jimmy’s canine assistant, who warns Buster his team is not cut out for the big leagues, and she’s not telling him to be a jerk.
“Sing 2” has a tougher edge than the first movie, in regards to the bad guy and the old rocker struggling to regain his voice. And it also keeps the colors and flexibility alive. Yes, you get a lot of sugar energy, but it can also be fun if you just cut back on being serious for a moment. And it does a good (if not profound) job at trying to be serious, instead of just being the animated comedy Illumination is always engaged in.
I liked the returning voice work from McConaughey, Witherspoon, Johansson, Egerton, Kroll, and Kelly; I enjoyed the newcomers: Cannavale, Halsey, Wright, Peretti, and Bono; and I admired its U2 inspiration. If “Gnomeo & Juliet” could have an Elton John theme, then there’s no reason why “Sing 2” can’t sing “Where the Streets Have No Name.”
So far, this a season for good family movies (“Clifford the Big Red Dog,” “Encanto,” “Ron’s Gone Wrong”), and the energy and song covers help make “Sing 2” one of them.
In Theaters December 21
Special 5PM Screenings This Saturday Nationwide