‘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

Movie Review: ‘Rocketman’ Breathes Fantastical New Life Into Rock Star Biopics

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CREDIT: Paramount Pictures

Starring: Taron Egerton, Jamie Bell, Bryce Dallas Howard, Richard Madden

Director: Dexter Fletcher

Running Time: 121 Minutes

Rating: R for Fabulous Rock Star Indulgences

Release Date: May 31, 2019

Have you ever felt so exhilarated by a movie that you thought, “I never knew it was possible to get this high?” Presumably you have, as you care enough about cinema to read reviews by film buffs who are just as passionate as you are.  But you also, like me, might be worried that you will never experience this feeling again. When it comes, it’s often inspired by a really rousing song-and-dance number, and it seems like those are in short supply these days. Too many music biopics are satisfied with just touching on the nuts and bolts of rock stardom. But I don’t think that’s because they don’t want to capture the spirit of their subjects. It requires a tricky sort of alchemy to make a music movie that really sings, but somehow through the magic combination of Elton John’s discography, Taron Egerton’s cheeky and gleeful and tormented performance, and Dexter Fletcher’s go-for-broke direction, Rocketman has found the right formula.

It helps a great deal that it’s an actual musical. Biopics are often categorized by awards groups as musicals, but that’s often a misnomer, because the performance scenes are generally just that: performances. But in Rocketman, they are instead excuses for flights of fancy. As Egerton adroitly digs into the former Reginald Dwight’s oeuvre, he is buoyed along by sudden losses of gravity, stages that turn into whirlwinds, impromptu interpretive dances, and a general sense that anything could happen. This film is also a tale of triumphing over addiction, as it is framed around a group therapy session in which John recounts how he got to this crazy point in his life. You get the sense that while living alongside parents who never quite understood him, a manager who took advantage of him, and at least one loyal friend and partner who stuck beside him for decades, a corresponding world of chaos and ebullience was constantly bouncing around in his head. Rocketman has captured that part of his psyche marvelously, and it is now a decadent treat for the whole world to feast upon.

Rocketman is Recommended If You Like: The Elton John Songbook, All That Jazz

Grade: 4 out of 5 Feathered Outfits

This Is a Movie Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

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CREDIT: Giles Keyte/Twentieth Century Fox

The Golden Circle is just as exciting as the first Kingsman, and it features a hell of a villainous turn from Julianne Moore. Its attitude is a bit arch, and it often pretends that it isn’t, but that isn’t a huge deal when the action is assembled impressively and the humor does let loose often enough. But ultimately while these flicks are fun, I find it hard to embrace them fully. There is just something weirdly insidious about their politics (or something like politics). It may not even be intentional, but intentional or not, it does unnerve me. I could have forgiven all that if Channing had danced more. Why didn’t Channing dance more?

I give Kingsman: The Golden Circle 2 Cannibal Burgers out of 3 Butterfly Effects.