‘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

This Is a Movie Review: Going in Style

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This review was originally published on News Cult in April 2017.

Starring: Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin

Director: Zach Braff

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: April 7, 2017

Release Date: PG-13 for Shooting Blanks in One Way and Not Shooting Blanks in Another

There is a cottage industry of our finest living octogenarian thespians behaving badly, whether living it up in Vegas or spending spring break with their grandkids fishing for tail. Going in Style at first glance appears the next entry in this genre, what with its premise of retirees making their last big mark by pulling off a bank robbery. As these old coots throw on their Rat Pack masks, are we supposed to be thinking, “Somebody’s watched Point Break one too many times”? Not exactly. This is not a tale of wish fulfillment debauchery. Instead, Going in Style takes its opening cue from much more Oscar-friendly territory (as well as the 1979 original of the same name starring George Burns, Art Carney, and Lee Strasberg).

Longtime friends and factory co-workers Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Al (Alan Arkin) are facing a variety of ills: foreclosure for Joe, kidney failure for Willie, and disappearing pensions for all three. They do not vocalize a sense of economic betrayal from their country, but the subtext is clear. This is the same message as last year’s neo-Western Hell or High Water: when even the local banks are strictly aligned with the global monied class, robbery is all that those left behind can turn to. Going in Style mostly avoids that bleakness, though not at first. The first 15 minutes or so are all about underscoring the piling up of debt and very real threat of homelessness for decent folks who have put in decades of honest employment.

But with the codgers at its center, a depressing consistency would be truly beyond the pale. The dialogue acknowledges that safety net, as these intrepid thieves figure that even if they do get caught, they will at least be guaranteed a bed, three meals a day, and better health care than they are used to. There is a deep well of fantastic realism, or realistic fantasy, as it were, at play. We know Joe, Willie, and Al will get away with it, and it is essentially a victimless crime. Their temptation into a solution of crime is presented less as a trip to the dark side and more as open-mindedness and ingenuity. But surely the loss of millions cannot be so easily brushed off.

It is probably not necessary to take too harsh a moral stance against Going in Style, as I imagine that its target audience understands that stealing is wrong and heists are not so easily pulled off in real life. But it would be preferable if the film had a more clearly discernible message. Is it advocating for getting what you’re owed by any means necessary, becoming a Robin Hood of sorts, or actually just prescribing robbery in extreme circumstances? As it stands, it is a whimsical wisp propelled along by plenty of capable people that tiptoes around some explosive territory.

Going in Style is Recommended If You Like: Hell or High Water but thought it was missing a dance scene set to “Single Ladies”

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 “Young Men”