Sing 2

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Sing was a nice little animated feature. There was nothing particularly special about it, especially given that the superior Finding Dory, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Zootopia came out the same year. Even if it wasn't on their level, surrendering to the pop music-filled story and cute characters was easy. Now comes Sing 2, and it is something special – a genuine make-you-feel-great movie with a better plot, bigger laughs, and more heart. In every way, this is a sequel that outshines the original.

Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) and his colleagues have put together a musical revue that sells out in their town every night. He thinks they can do better, though. After a talent scout deems their work to be not good enough, Buster hatches a plan to take everyone into the city, where they will convince Mr. Crystal (Bobby Cannavale), the head of the biggest talent agency around, to take them to the next level. Mr. Crystal is indeed convinced after hearing Gunter's (Nick Kroll) idea for a sci-fi epic. He quickly installs his daughter Porsha (Halsey) in the lead, thereby replacing Rosita (Reese Witherspoon).

Part of the deal, however, is that Buster must convince rock legend Clay Calloway (Bono) to be in the show. Clay has become a hermit – and an angry one to boot – over the past fifteen years, so getting him on board will take some work. While Buster and Ash (Scarlett Johansson) work on that, Mina (Tori Kelly) develops a first crush and Johnny (Taron Egerton) endures awkward choreography lessons for his big role.

The story has a nice mix of elements. Seeing the characters prep for the show offers a number of big laughs. Porsha, for example, sings beautifully, but couldn't act her way out of a paper bag. That creates comic pressure for Buster, as does Johnny's inability to learn the complex dance steps. Sing 2 has lots of witty, clever jokes about the stressors that come with trying to mount an ambitious production. Because Buster and crew are established now, the movie is able to build on what we already know about their personalities to create humor.

At the same time, Clay's story gives Sing 2 an infusion of emotion. He's been hiding after a personal tragedy, so the only way to get him to return to the music he once loved is to help him heal a little bit. Sure, you'll know how this is going to resolve itself long before the movie gets there. Thanks to the sincerity with which the subplot is presented and the lack of anything maudlin in Bono's earnest performance, the payoff registers strongly anyway.

Song choices are tops, too. An opening rendition of Prince's “Let's Go Crazy” sets the tone. Later, Halsey belts out a killer version of Alicia Keys' “Girl on Fire,” Johansson performs the Yeah Yeah Yeah's “Heads Will Roll,” and Egerton takes on Coldplay's “A Sky Full of Stars.” Every single one of the wall-to-wall musical numbers is presented with great imagination to match the excellent animation.

Sing 2 is such a cheery, happy movie that it makes you forget about whatever troubles were on your mind when you sat down to watch it. Writer/director Garth Jennings focuses on elevating the stuff that worked in the original. That proves to be a shrewd choice. I got fully swept up in the film, laughing, tapping my foot to the beat, and feeling touched by the themes of teamwork and healing. This is a thoroughly wonderful picture guaranteed to boost your mood.

out of four

Sing 2 is rated PG for some rude material and mild peril/violence. The running time is 1 hour and 52 minutes.