Music used to be rationed. Filmmakers would think long and hard before choosing which song to put in which movies. You wouldn’t place Whole Lotta Love in Saturday Night Fever. You wouldn’t risk Great Balls of Fire in a Doris Day movie. The public dared to distinguish the genres and allowed themselves a certain degree of prejudice in doing so.
All to prepare punters for the turbulent stream of musical “content” that rushes through nearly every second of Garth Jennings’ sequel to his own hit jukebox animation. Who cares where it comes from? Who cares what we call it? A bit of Billie Eilish here. Some Mercury Rev there. We have a sad moment. So why not launch Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? Looks like Scarlett Johansson’s porcupine is what Americans call a “punk rocker.” Well, give it a few bars of Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of by U2. It’s quite close. To the right?
None of this drags on long enough to mean anything. The arrangements are so flippant that it’s barely possible to separate the old and golden from the tired and cordless. As a strand of the universal tree, Illumination Studios has access to that company’s extensive music archive, but there’s plenty of material from elsewhere. Such an incontinent jamming of mismatched pop was already underway with Moulin Rouge 20 years ago, but, despite all the film’s abundant flaws, Baz Luhrmann found a way to weave the songs together into a cohesive whole. It’s just cacophonous chaos.
We begin shortly after the events of the first film, with the menagerie performing in their new theater. For no logical reason, the team moves to some version of Las Vegas – “Redshore City”? Did I miss a pun here? — and embarks on a lavish and seemingly ghastly sci-fi musical.
They have some difficulties. The financier’s talentless daughter is to be greeted with a starring role. Meena, the lead pig, has fallen in love with an ice cream parlor. More seriously, they have yet to convince reclusive rock star Clay Calloway to appear on the show.
This is where we come to the disconcerting participation of Bono Vox (good name for a Rainer W Fassbender film there). Who would have imagined, when U2 were playing Dandelion Market, that the lead singer, in the guise of a grizzled lion, would end up singing one of their most famous songs in front of a computer-generated audience of sheep, lizards, geese and alligators? Lord only knows why the great man bothered to accept the job, but, to be fair, he once again confirms that he does nothing by half, three-quarters or four-fifths. You can hear the vocal chords creak as he exploits the only chance he’ll likely have to voice the lead role in A Star Is Born.
It’s one of the lesser puzzles in Sing 2 that while Letitia Wright and Taron Egerton go English, the Mount Temple alum speaks with an American accent. Let’s pretend it’s a joke about U2’s eternal transatlantic bias and move on.
The animation is nothing special. The main characters are reasonably easy on the eyes, but too many secondary players look like humans with animal heads roughly stuck on unwelcoming shoulders. There are enough inspiring things about self-confidence and the power of positive thinking. It’s not entirely clear whether we’re meant to be impressed by the final sci-fi musical or appalled by its apparent vulgarity.
Sing 2 will likely do five times what West Side Story took.
Opening on January 28