‘Sing 2’ Sure Features a Lot of Singing! Is it Too Much? Let’s Find Out

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Sing 2 (CREDIT: Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures)

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Bobby Canavale, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Halsey, Pharrell Williams, Nick Offerman, Letitia Wright, Eric André, Chelsea Peretti, Bono, Garth Jennings, Adam Buxton, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Serafinowicz

Director: Garth Jennings

Running Time: 112 Minutes

Rating: PG for Threats of Grievous Bodily Harm

Release Date: December 22, 2021 (Theaters)

In Sing 2, Bobby Canavale voices wolf/media mogul Jimmy Crystal, who’s basically the lupine version of the studio executive that Graham Chapman played in Monty Python‘s “20th Century Vole” sketch. He says that he wants to see something “big” and “different,” but really that’s just code for “I’m impossible to please!” When we first meet him, he’s auditioning a menagerie of potential acts for his next live show, and they all look pretty unique to me. I mean, have you ever seen a lemur sing Billie Eilish’s “Bury a Friend” while doing gymnastics or a trio of ducklings nailing Eminem’s “My Name Is” while dressed like Dick Van Dyke-style chimney sweeps? Maybe Jimmy Crystal has, because he immediately dismisses them with a “been there, done that” attitude. So what does he want? Guaranteed cash flow, I assume, because just about the only thing that excites him is the mention of legendary lion Clay Calloway (voiced by Bono), a rock icon-turned-recluse who nobody’s heard from ever since his wife died. And for some reason, plucky koala impresario Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) has promised that he can book Calloway.

Moon and his musical crew are basically in the business of putting on the sort of live musical spectacular that you’d see at Las Vegas. They perform a jukebox medley of all sorts of hit songs along with a vague storyline. At the beginning of Sing 2, they’re putting on something inspired by Alice in Wonderland, but they’re eventually told to come up with something original, so resident librettist pig Gunter (Nick Kroll) crafts a space opera about traversing the planets of War and Joy. That sounds like a pretty great show to me! They don’t need a giant cat voiced by one of the most famous rock stars of all time to make it work. I mean, I’m not saying that they should get rid of Bono, but I understand the over-the-top theater kid appeal of this endeavor with or without him.

The other major thought about Sing 2 that I want to express has to do with its inclusion of U2 songs. Quite a few are featured, and the implication seems to be that in the Sing universe, every single U2 song is a Clay Calloway song, which suggests a whole host of metaphysical implications that I’m not sure writer-director Garth Jennings is prepared to grapple with. (Or maybe he is! And if so, I’d love to hear his thoughts.)

Anyway, this is all pretty lightweight, but I can’t deny that my ears pricked up and my heart swelled at some key moments. The voice cast has been assembled for good reason. Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, and Taron Egerton all know how to sing. And I’m particularly invested in Tori Kelly as nervous elephant Meena, because she’s a 100% Certified Cutie (Kelly, that is, not Meena, although I don’t judge if you’re into cartoon pachyderms). Halsey joins the fun with a full-on Joisey accent, while Kroll, Eric André, and Chelsea Peretti deliver an acceptable amount of funny. It’s bright, it’s buoyant, and my only major disappointment is that the Minions didn’t show up again after they appeared for the Illumination production logo.

Sing 2 is Recommended If You Like: Relentless soundtracks, Cartoon characters embodying clichés about evil media moguls, Elephant trunks holding ice cream cones

Grade: 3 out of 5 Big Leagues

‘The Photograph’ Captures Generations of Love Blossoming and Spreading Free

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CREDIT: Universal Pictures

Starring: Issa Rae, Lakeith Stanfield, Chanté Adams, Y’lan Noel, Rob Morgan, Lil Rel Howery, Teyonah Parris, Courtney B. Vance, Chelsea Peretti, Kelvin Harrison Jr., Jasmine Cephas Jones, Marsha Stephanie Blake

Director: Stella Meghie

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Some Sizzling Moments

Release Date: February 14, 2020

The ads for The Photograph have been giving off strong “Nicholas Sparks, but with black people” vibes. However, I had a hankering suspicion that it wouldn’t actually be as saccharine as that glossy presentation suggested. First and foremost, the two leads, Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield, are not exactly for taking on such gloopy material. Surely their presence would ensure that things would end up a little more left-field than this genre typically goes. Indeed that has turned out to be the case, but to be fair to the marketing team, this is not an easy movie to advertise. It has a slow-burn meditative spirit (driven along by Robert Glasper’s jazzy piano score) that does not immediately grab you in the way that trailers are meant to in a couple of minutes. But if you simmer in it for a couple hours, your heart might just grow a few sizes.

Michael (Stanfield) is a reporter working on a story that happens to involve recently deceased photographer Christina Eames (Chanté Adams). He then finds himself smitten by Christina’s daughter Mae (Rae), who is working her way through the truth bombs that her mom has left her in a pair of letters, one addressed to Mae and one to Mae’s father. Meanwhile, writer-director Stella Meghie frequently takes us back to Christina’s young adulthood in small-town Louisiana where she is unable to reconcile a possible future with the man that she loves (Y’lan Noel) and her dreams of making it big in New York City. She tends to always choose her professional goals over her loved ones, and in a case of family history rhyming, Mae and Michael find themselves worried that they are going to do the same. That struggle to find the nerve to say what you know is in your heart is deeply felt in The Photograph.

I have noticed a lot of excitement around this movie about the potential to see black love that is not also about trauma on the big screen. And if that is what you are looking for, I suspect that you will be satisfied. The blackness in The Photograph is not meant to represent all blackness, as Michael and Mae’s story is by no means a microcosm of all people of color. They are two people who happen to be black and happen to be falling in love. The details are their own, while also being part of a continuum of their lineage. It is an openhearted, generous story that I think a lot of people are going to be happy to witness.

The Photograph is Recommended If You Like: Beyond the Lights, Love & Basketball, A bottle of wine and a record player on a rainy night

Grade: 4 out of 5 Darkrooms