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"SING 2"
(2021) (voices of Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson) (PG)

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Animated Comedy/Musical: A group of musical animals tries to put on a big Broadway-caliber musical, but to pull it off they must convince a reclusive former rocker to join them.

Buster Moon (voice of MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY) is a showbiz koala who's hoping a talent scout -- who's looking for big acts for Redshore City casino owner Jimmy Crystal (voice of BOBBY CANNAVALE) -- will think that their Moon Theater show is the right fit.

She doesn't, but Buster gets his old crew together -- including his lizard assistant Ms. Crawley (voice of GARTH JENNINGS); pig singer Rosita (voice of REESE WITHERSPOON), shy elephant Meena (voice of TORI KELLY); flamboyant German pig Gunter (voice of NICK KROLL); singing gorilla Johnny (voice of TARON EGERTON), and punk rocker porcupine Ash (voice of SCARLETT JOHANSSON) -- and they head for the big city.

When their sneak audition for Mr. Crystal flops, they ad-lib and pitch Gunter's idea for a sci-fi musical. That includes lying that they not only have permission from reclusive rocker Clay Calloway (voice of BONO) to use his song but that he's also going to be in the production. Crystal loves the idea but only gives them three weeks to get it ready.

As Buster, Ms. Crawley, and Ash try to convince Clay -- who hasn't been seen in fifteen years following his wife's death -- the rest must contend with Crystal's airhead daughter, Porsha (voice of HALSEY), who wants the lead part; self-centered actor Darius (voice of ERIC ANDRE); and choreographer Klaus Kickenklober (voice of ADAM BUXTON) who's so demanding of and demeaning to Johnny that the gorilla reaches out to street performer feline Nooshy (voice of LETITIA WRIGHT) for help with his dancing and performance.

With the clock ticking down toward the first performance, Buster does what he can to make that happen, convince Clay to join them, and avoid Mr. Crystal's wrath.

OUR TAKE: 6 out of 10

A familiar but not overly used storyline in movies and TV shows is that of "let's put on a show." It's usually the result of needing to raise money for something or someone in need, be it the Catholic orphanage in "The Blue Brothers" to the school band in Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney's "Strike Up The Band."

With that in mind, I'm somewhat surprised that -- or something similar -- wasn't the underlying reason for the "LPOAS" storyline in "Sing 2," the sequel to 2016's "Sing" that was about a bunch of singing animals putting together a talent show. In this offering -- written and directed by Garth Jennings -- and with all of the central characters and their personality types having already been presented in the first film, we begin with them doing their "Glee" inspired version of a musical.

Their hope is that a talent scout from Redshore City (think Vegas) will be so blown away that she'll immediately bring them in to be the next headline show in the casino resort owned by Jimmy Crystal (voiced by Bobby Cannavale channeling any and all old mob boss types, comedy style).

Alas, she doesn't think they're ready for the big time, and the group's leader, Buster (Matthew McConaughey), is ready to call it quits, but then develops a spine and gets the group -- and a few old friends -- to join him in going to the big city and proving their worth. But Mr. Crystal -- in full Simon Cowell mode -- hates their act just like everything else.

Realizing it's now or never, Buster gets his group to perform "Where the Streets Have No Name" and pitch's German squealer Gunter's (Nick Kroll) barely conceived idea of a sci-fi musical that will feature none other than Bono. Okay, not really the lead singer of U2, but rather Clay Calloway, a legendary figure in the music biz who hasn't been seen since his wife's death fifteen years ago. Oh, and who happens to be voiced here by...Bono.

Crystal is intrigued, and gives the green light, but only if Buster can prove that not only does he know Clay, but he also has permission to use his song in the musical AND will appear in it. Given just three weeks, Buster and his team -- that includes Meena the shy elephant (Tori Kelly), pop porker Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), singing ape Johnny (Taron Egerton), punk rocker Ash (Scarlett Johansson), and one-eyed lizard Ms. Crawly (Garth Jennings) -- must write, rehearse, and put on the show, all while tracking down Clay and breaking through his grief-based barrier.

And having to contend with a new set of characters such as demanding and demeaning choreographer Klaus Kickenklober (Adam Buxton) -- whose behavior has Johnny seeking help from feline street performer Nooshy (Letitia Wright) -- conceited stage actor Darius (Eric Andre), and Porsha (Halsey), the airheaded, aspiring actress daughter of Crystal. The need to succeed is driven by Crystal's repeated threats to drop Buster from his high-rise roof should he disappoint him in any way.

Along the way, and like before, there's a slew of popular songs from across the decades modified for the film, and most work as intended. As does the film. While I wasn't crazy about the original flick, I found this one slightly more entertaining and appealing, even if the "let's put on a show" reason is more self-serving (albeit with unintended good consequences) than charitable. "Sing 2" rates as a 6 out of 10.

Reviewed December 1, 2021 / Posted December 22, 2021

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