‘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

It’s Worth Spending a Couple of Stylish, Silly Hours with ‘The Gentlemen’ of Guy Richie

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CREDIT: Christopher Raphael

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, Michelle Dockery, Jeremy Strong, Eddie Marsan, Colin Farrell, Hugh Grant

Director: Guy Ritchie

Running Time: 113 Minutes

Rating: R for Drug Dealing, Gunfire Blood Splatter, and a Bit of Poison

Release Date: January 24, 2020

The Gentlemen is basically the Guy Ritchie-fied version of a John le Carré story. Instead of a labyrinthine plot about nattily dressed spies and other government associates double-, triple-, and quadruple-crossing each other, we have here a labyrinthine plot about nattily dressed drug dealers and dirt diggers double-, triple-, and quadruple-crossing each other. Also as with the typical Le Carré, The Gentlemen requires a diagram to make sense of everything that happens and how everyone relates to each other. But on a scene-by-scene basis, it is clear (or at least clear enough to be entertaining) where everyone’s motivations lie and who’s trying to pull the upper hand on whom.

CREDIT: Christopher Raphael

While watching The Gentlemen, I had similar feelings that I do when watching my favorite sports teams pull off successful big play after big play, with nary an error or defensive blunder the whole time. It is not always clear who to root for in these ensemble-driven crime-business action flicks, nor it is always preferable. But in this case, knowing that Mickey Pearson (Matthew McConaughey) and his partner Raymond (Charlie Hunnam) are the (relative) moral paragons is a big help. The fact that Mickey peddles cannabis instead of, say, heroin and does so proudly because his product doesn’t kill his customers, allows us to orient ourselves toward some clarity in a movie that is otherwise often quite cacophonous.

And Hugh Grant’s presence as a private investigator who is just dying to get the big scoop on everybody (and also not die in the process) lets us know that it’s a good idea to laugh. There’s plenty of silliness otherwise to prompt the chuckles, but Grant is the crux that assures us of the light-footed, devilishly good time we ought to be having. It’s always a delight to see him so immersed in this sort of gleefulness. Even the meta twist that he pulls off at the end somehow feels so right when in lesser hands it could have undermined the whole tone. Instead, The Gentlemen is a stylish romp that will have you going, “The good-ish guys won.”

The Gentlemen is Recommended If: You’ve always wondered what it would be like if Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy merged with Matthew McConaughey’s Lincoln commercials and added a dash of Hugh Grant in Paddington 2 Mode

Grade: 3 out of 5 Turtleneck Sweaters

This Is A Movie Review: The Beach Bum

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CREDIT: NEON and VICE Films

There are a lot of bare breasts in The Beach Bum. In the interest of naked parity, I must report that there is sadly not a whole lot of corresponding male nudity, although we do get a peek at Matthew’s McConaughey while he’s taking a drunken leak. This movie is basically the diary of a hedonist in Florida, and frankly, it could have been even more hedonistic, though it is having plenty of fun with itself in its shaggy structure. There actually does seem to be a bit of a message here, something about whether or not great men should be given the rope they’re often given to make great art, as Moondog’s shenanigans are sort of excused while he’s encouraged to write his next brilliant poetry collection. But this is also the movie in which Snoop Dogg plays a character named “Lingerie” and Martin Lawrence gets his foot bitten off by a shark, and those things seem just as important as any high-minded social consciousness.

I give The Beach Bum An Agreement to Drink a Few Sips of PBR.

This Is a Movie Review: I Saw ‘The Dark Tower’ – Please Send Help

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2017.

Starring: Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Taylor

Director: Nikolaj Arcel

Running Time: 95 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Gunslinging and Fire Beasts

Release Date: August 4, 2017

Unlike most bloated modern blockbusters, The Dark Tower keeps it under two hours, clocking in at a merciful 95 minutes. Unfortunately, that is the best thing about it. Within the first 10 minutes of this dud, and for the remaining 85 thereafter, my primary thought was, “Well, at least it is going to be over soon.” This adaptation of Stephen King’s long-running series of novels could benefit from an extended runtime, as it would allow room to actually explain what the hell is going on, but that could only improve it so much, as its problems run much deeper than narrative confusion.

The crowd I saw it with applauded at the end, and several other times throughout, so perhaps if you’re a Dark Tower aficionado (do you call yourselves “gunslingers”?), it might work for you, but for the uninitiated, there is no effort to explain character motivations or the rules that govern this world. The point of this whole adventure is saving the titular structure, as its destruction would lead to the extinction of all existence. Roland (Idris Elba), a gunslinger, is trying to protect it, but he is stuck in an epic interdimensional struggle with Walter (Matthew McConaughey), aka the Man in Black, a sorcerer who wants to … destroy the tower? Or control it? Or just accumulate power in general? The fight between these two has possibly been lasting for centuries, or maybe just hours. The stakes between them seem especially personal, but they do not need to be, considering that Walter’s villainy is all-encompassing.

Sucked up into all this, for no clearly discernible reason, is young Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor). Jake does not really fit the Chosen One fantasy trope, mostly because he barely registers as a character as all. His presence in this conflict is mostly accidental. He has “the shine,” a psychic ability found in many of King’s works, which allows him to observe interdimensional goings-on in his dreams but does not make him particularly interesting.

The Dark Tower manages to wring out a few decent stabs at humor, thanks to Roland’s fish-out-of-water presence when Jake whisks him away to Earth. He asks “what breed?” when told he is eating a hot dog and pops a whole cocktail of painkillers like they’re candy. Most pointedly, Jake assures him that he is going to love Earth, due to its much easier availability of bullets than Roland is used to. But it occasionally feels like he should have a better idea of what is going on, or maybe he should have no idea at all. If you told me that Roland had visited Earth 100 times previously, or never, both possibilities would sound just as believable.

Something resembling laughter also comes from King’s knack for inexplicable dialogue, which is relentless throughout. The Dark Tower epitomizes the sort of complicated story that makes perfect sense to the people telling it but leaves no guidance for outsiders to find their way in.

The Dark Tower is Recommended If You Like: Stephen King’s awkward dialogue, Administering the autopsy on a box office disaster

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Magics