ST. LOUIS — The best thing about 2016's "Sing" was the fact that it connected with children, teenagers, and adults alike.
Kids of all ages and their parents were wrapped up by the speaking and singing animals, voiced by Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson, trying to make a career out of music. The soundtrack played like a greatest hits album for multiple generations, like leaving KSHE on during an afternoon in the garage. The characters were easy-to-understand caricatures, good and lesser good souls wheeling and dealing in the harsh business of entertainment. The plot threads sat in the crowd-pleasing section.
What "Sing 2" proves is that the formula works. Animated movies don't have to introduce groundbreaking thought or ideas in order to make an impact. Garth Jennings, who co-directed and wrote the original, handles both duties here in a film that represents a warm blanket in the colder time of year. Famous rock band leader Bono joins the fray this time, bringing along most of U2's hit songs in a fresh fashion.
If you missed or have forgotten the allure of the first film, the characters (also voiced by Taron Egerton and Reese Witherspoon) sing popular well-known songs in a competition run by the stressed-yet-lovable Buster Moon (McConaughey). In a plan to save his decaying theater, Moon gathers the finest talent in the world and has them sing it off. The result was your feet moving and a smile unfolding on your face. An hour and 42 breezy minutes. Mom, dad, the teens, and the kids all leaving happy--humming songs from four different generations on the way home.
"Sing 2" does that and increases the fun with the addition of Bono. While the film is highly commercialized and fast-moving, the slower moments make for its finest ones. A scene between Johansson's Ash trying to cheer up a saddened rock legend (Bono's Clay Calloway) by singing "Stuck In A Moment You Can't Get Out Of" acoustic is animated magic. Fans of the Irish band will feel that tickle in their stomach and Johansson's casual fans will find out the lady can sing very well. The film shines brightest when these two hold the screen.
McConaughey gets to unleash that inner child he's only shown briefly as of late in his physical roles, an indelible charm that powers even the most superficial scenes. Bobby Cannavale gets to ham it up for good measure, and Jennings' own Miss Crawly is a hoot once again. Egerton proved in his Elton John biopic that he could sing, so Johnny's musical numbers are both seamless.
The story about Buster and company doing their best to put on an original show by luring Bono's reclusive Clay out of retirement is a genuine feel-good concoction. A perfect cinema treat right around Christmas. The soundtrack is full of great surprises and the movie has an underdog vibe that becomes infectious. When you're cheering along with the characters in the end, the job of the movie has been executed with precision.
"Sing 2" isn't just a good movie; it's even better than a solid original.