Can a song really save your life?
Sing 2 sees the return of Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), the can-do koala bear who has developed an entertaining show with his musical friends. When he hears of an opportunity to take their performance to the next level, he enters his team in a singing competition led by promotion king, Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale). However, in order to entice Crystal’s investment, Moon suggests that he can get legendary (and reclusive) rock star, Clay Callaway (Bono) to star in his production. Peaking Crystal’s interest, Moon and his friends suddenly have a mere three weeks to develop an entirely new production while convincing Callaway to come out of retirement.
Written and directed by Garth Jennings, Sing 2 is a light-hearted and enjoyable film that is also a vast improvement on 2018’s original. Featuring some truly eye-popping animation this time around, Sing 2 feels far more cinematic than its predecessor. Whereas the first film focused more on urban settings, the more artistic elements of the story here allows for a great deal more pop to the film’s visuals. From the opening musical number to its wild finale, this entry into the franchise is simply stunning with its use of colour and animation. (If this were a real stage production, it would easily by the most expensive one ever produced…)
In addition, whereas Sing felt like a soundtrack in search of a movie, Sing 2 feels like it has a story to tell. Although still fueled by the pop music madness of the original, the sequel seems to offer more ‘soul’ through its characters and feels more driven in its storytelling. As with the first film, Buster Moon’s arc focusses on his bravado and desire to create something special for audiences (and, arguably, himself). Even so, he is far less of a schemer here than he was in the original. (Admittedly, there’s another big lie that drives the narrative yet, somehow, it seems more harmless than before.) Moon’s character has always been ambitious but there seems to be a deeper sense of care for his people here that overrides his decision-making (most of the time). As Moon fights to prep his big show, he has genuinely learned the value of the people that work with him and he does his best to find the best possible showcase for their talents. (Of course, it also helps that Sing 2 finally has a true villain in Cannavale’s vicious wolf, Jimmy Crystal. By bringing him into the franchise, Moon is allowed to lean into the role of inspiring—but flawed—hero.)
But let’s be serious. This film is really all about Bono.
As reclusive artist Clay Callaway, Bono’s story feels infinitely more important than many of the other arcs that are taking place. (In fact, one wishes that we had gotten even more of him and his emotional journey.) As the reclusive artist, Bono absolutely shines. His distinct voice disappears into Calloway’s deep-throated growl and is almost unrecognizable. However, just like his character, his songs and his voice still make an impact.
Perhaps ironically, the film almost feels like a redemption project—if one were necessary—for Bono and U2‘s music. Having been lost to this generation after their ill-advised decision to release an album entirely free on iTunes several years back, U2 has fallen out of the pop-culture zeitgeist. In many ways, Sing 2 is an invitation for a new generation to begin to get to know their music. Selectively choosing three of their more well-regarded hits for the soundtrack, the film has a sense that their music still resonates.
Their music still matters.
Certainly, this speaks to the film’s emotional core as well. Grieving the loss of his wife, Callaway refuses to see visitors and hides away from the public eye. Believing that he has nothing to offer without the love of his life, he will no longer even pick up a guitar to play for himself. However, Ash and Moon recognize that the power of his music still gives life and hope to others. There is a soul to his music that the world still needs, even if it is a challenge for him to step back onto that stage. Having been locked away by his grief, the power of his own lyrics helps Callaway remember the hope that he had lost. (In fact, the moment that he and Ash begin to sing ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’ takes on almost religious significance. Specifically choosing to emphasize a verse about believing in the Kingdom Come and how the colours will bleed into one is not an accident.)
Though the film’s theme argues that a ‘song can save your life’, maybe its the truth within it that truly offers healing.
With energy and enthusiasm, Sing 2 still offers all the fun that marks the franchise. Most importantly though, the film has found a way to balance the song-filled silliness with a story that resonates. Like Callaway himself, Sing 2 has definitely found its soul once again.
Sing 2 opens in theatres on Wednesday, December 22nd, 2021.