Illumination Studios is a relatively young company. Its first film Despicable Me in 2010 was a huge hit and made those cute yellow Minions a phenomenon (I even own some of its action figures). In just over a decade, they’ve manage to spun up three original (that is not based on existing IP) franchises… Despicable Me (featuring the Minions and their boss Gru), The Secret Life of Pets and now this musical comedy SING. I remember enjoying the first movie when it came out five years ago. It was a pleasant surprise for me and I was wowed over by the characters and the catchy songs.
Well, the original characters from the first movie are back. At the center of it is Buster Moon, a koala theater owner who reinvents himself as a music producer when he set up a singing competition. This movie pretty much picks up where it left off, with the ambitious Buster trying to impress a big city talent scout name Suki. Well, he fails to do so, in fact she tells him he’d never make it in Redshore City (their version of Las Vegas). Undeterred, Buster decides to gather some of his rag tag musical group and head to the big city to audition for an entertainment mogul Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale) who runs Crystal Entertainment.
The group manages to sneak into the highly-guarded building and got in front of Jimmy. Thanks to ebullient pig Gunter’s ingenious space-themed show pitch involving a reclusive rock star Clay Calloway (U2’s Bono). Much to their surprise, Jimmy is a huge fan of Clay so they tell Buster he can stage the show if they can get the rock star to be a part of it.
I have to say it’s a pretty creative and clever idea that really got me invested in the characters’ journey. It’s a testament to the creative team, led by British filmmaker Garth Jennings (most notably famous for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) for crafting such funny, delightful characters in the form of diversely adorable animals. Matthew McConaughey is back voicing Buster Moon while Jennings himself lends the voice for Buster’s assistant miss Crawley, the hilarious elderly iguana with a glass eye. The rest of the voice cast are also back for this sequel: Gunther with his hilarious German accent (Nick Croll) still makes me laugh out loud, then there’s mother of 25-piglets with the golden voice Rosita ( Reese Witherspoon), son-of-former-mobster gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), teenage elephant Meena (Tori Kelly) and porcupine punk rocker Ash (Scarlett Johansson).
Yes there are cliches abound and the story is predictable, but the characters somehow manage to win me over. The elaborate scheme of putting a show together without having all the elements in place gets a bit haphazard and chaotic. The visuals are rich and vibrant, but perhaps a tad too colorful that it was like visual overload at times. Jennings’ script jam packs so much stuff into the plot that it threatens to spontaneously combust before the movie reaches the end. The subplot involving Jimmy’s spoiled brat daughter joining the show gets on my nerves a bit. My favorite moments are the quieter moments, such as the tentative relationship between Clay and his fan Ash who gets him out of his funk. I also find the relationship between Johnny and a lynx street dancer Nooshy (Letitia Wright) really endearing, as is the cute romance between Meena and an ice cream vendor (Pharrell). These animal characters are surprisingly relatable and endearing.
It’s great casting to get actors who can sing, I especially love Taron and Scarlet’s voices, they could practically be singers if they’re bored with acting. There are quite a few musicians in the cast, there’s Tori Kelly, Halsey and Pharell, and of course there’s Bono as Clay. As a fan of some of the U2 songs, it’s such a treat to hear I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For done as a duet he did with Scarlett, and they also debuted Your Song Saved My Life, their first song in three years.
Sing 2 is an enjoyable, lively and life-affirming movie that one can enjoy with the whole family this holiday season. I don’t really listen to pop music these days but I enjoy listening to most of the songs and they fit the story nicely. Young kids would certainly enjoy the fun, lively animation, while adults can appreciate the songs, hilarious moments and touching story of pursuing one’s dreams.
Have you seen SING 2? Well, what did you think?