Sing 2: Even Worse Than the Real Thing, by David Bax
Now, I’m going to come out and admit something and I hope you won’t judge me too harshly for it. I didn’t see Space Jam: A New Legacy. I’m sorry. But I was made aware, through the firehose of awful nonsense that is Twitter, that characters from just about every memorable movie Warner Bros. ever released show up in crowd scenes. It’s depressing to see elements of great art recycled into kitsch, reduced to a reference to be smirked at. That’s kind of how I feel about the way popular music is used in the Sing movies, where great songs are flattened, neutered and stuffed into the mouths of cute cartoon animals where they reemerge as identical glossy products, tie-in singles the young and the gullible can stream on Apple Music. When an actual, original version of a song shows up on the soundtrack in Sing 2–even when it’s crap like “Abracadabra” by The Steve Miller Band, it’s enough to qualify as a relief.
In the sequel, we open with a fairytale-inspired, Alice in Wonderland-ish number–a production taking place in the humble theater of Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey)–that immediately put me in mind of 2015’s Strange Magic, a very bad, forgotten one-off that also happens to be an animated jukebox musical. Before the opening song had even ended, I had a chilling thought: Oh, my God, I think I’d rather be watching Strange Magic.
Sing 2 is glossy and probably quite expensive (what with all the music licensing and the big name voice cast) but it’s almost completely devoid of character. Other than talking animals, which are a dime a dozen in the cartoon space, the only thing that makes the world of the movie feel distinct is a holdover from the first film, the suggestion that, here, the only form of popular art or entertainment is the kind of live stage show Buster produces. This time, he and the gang pursue creating one in a new city and on a bigger scale.
There may be plenty of other things in Sing 2 that come from the original; I just don’t have a perfect memory for five-year-old movies I didn’t like. But, then again, this one wasn’t really made with me in mind. Sequels to kids’ movies can be safe in assuming their target audience has watched the previous entry again and again. Here we have a textbook example of a second entry. The fact that Buster, having achieved his goals the first time, is anxious to do more but bigger is the essence of the Hollywood sequel distilled.
That kind of ego-driven ambition is probably not a great lesson for kids, just one example of Sing 2‘s troublingly hollow (or, more charitably, just unconsidered) messaging. Presenting the Las Vegas strip–for which the film’s new setting of Redshore City is an obvious stand-in, minus the gambling–as the pinnacle of culture is depressing. But thinking adults may squirm more uncomfortably in their seats at the many jokes about entertainers and crew working in rushed, unsafe conditions and actors pressured into doing intimate scenes.
Then again, it’s no surprise that the movie industry would see a sequel as a tone-deaf opportunity to applaud itself at its emptiest and worst. And that’s Sing 2 in a nutshell. No surprises.