Sing 2… “Sing 2” (Universal), writer-director Garth Jennings’ follow-up to his 2016 animated musical comedy, finds that film’s ensemble of animal entertainers aiming for the big time.
As they work to fulfill their ambition, some of the dangers through which they pass are too scary for little kids. Fueled by familiar tunes and buoyed by enjoyable humor, though, their story is on target for most others.
Koala theater owner Buster Moon (voice of Matthew McConaughey), dreams of having the troupe he brought together in the kick-off perform in fabled Redshore City (think Las Vegas). The aspiring headliners include gifted but still shy elephant Meena (voice of Tori Kelly); Rosita (voice of Reese Witherspoon), the overworked mom of 25 piglets; and porcupine punk rocker Ash (voice of Scarlett Johansson).
Though crushingly dismissed by snooty canine talent scout Suki (voice of Chelsea Peretti), Buster gets encouragement from established sheep singer Nana (voice of Jennifer Saunders). “Anyone who sets out to follow their dreams is bound to face a dip in the canal,” she tells him.
His enthusiasm renewed, Buster, with his pals in tow, approaches Suki’s boss, lupine media magnate Jimmy Crystal (voice of Bobby Cannavale), directly. To break through Jimmy’s initial indifference, Rosita’s effusive dancing partner and fellow pig Gunter (voice of Nick Kroll) comes up with a creative but problematic idea that prompts Buster to make a rash promise.
The proposed show, Buster assures Jimmy, will feature legendary lion rock star Clay Calloway (voice of Bono, in his acting debut). The hitch? Since the death of his wife 15 years ago, Clay has been one of the world’s most famous recluses.
The wild scramble that ensues is thought-provoking as well as diverting. The tone of Jennings’ script is a bit darker than that of his previous screenplay. Its treatment of such topics as self-doubt and the ability to deal with setbacks — as well as bullying, privilege and popularity — may especially resonate with teens. Themes of empathy, honesty and the means of coping with grief are also highlighted.
“Sing 2” is mostly a jukebox musical. Thus the cast belts out or croons covers of tunes by Prince, Elton John, Dionne Warwick, Coldplay and, of course, U2 — among others. But the soundtrack also includes an original Bono composition, written specifically for the movie, “Your Song Saved My Life.”