Sing 2 review: Lord alone knows why Bono bothered to take the job

The U2 singer appears in the guise of a grizzled lion and speaks in an American accent

Cacophonous mayhem. The musical arrangements ‘are so glib it is barely possible to separate olden and golden from tired and unwired’.

Film Title: Sing 2

Director: Garth Jennings

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Bobby Cannavale, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll

Genre: Animation

Running Time: 110 min

Fri, Jan 28, 2022, 05:00

   

Music used to be rationed. Film-makers would think 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 film. Audiences dared to distinguish between genres and allowed themselves a degree of prejudice in doing so.

All of which is to prepare punters for the turbulent stream of musical “content” that rushes through almost every second of Garth Jennings’s follow-up to his own hit jukebox animation. Who cares where it’s from? Who cares what we call it? A bit of Billie Eilish here. Some Mercury Rev there. We have a sad moment. Then why not crank up Goodbye Yellow Brick Road? It seems as if Scarlett Johansson’s porcupine is what Americans call a “punk rocker”. Well, give her a few bars of U2’s Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of. That’s close enough. Right?

None of it hangs around long enough to mean anything. The arrangements are so glib it is barely possible to separate olden and golden from tired and unwired. As a sprig from the Universal tree, Illumination Studios has access to that company’s vast musical archive, but there is plenty of material from elsewhere. Such incontinent jamming of mismatched pop was already afoot with Moulin Rouge 20 years ago, but, for all that film’s abundant flaws, Baz Luhrmann found ways of stitching the songs into a coherent whole. This is just cacophonous mayhem.

We start shortly after the events of the first film, with the menagerie performing in their new theatre. For no reason that makes sense, the team relocates to a version of Las Vegas – “Redshore City”? Am I missing a pun here? – and embarks on a lavish, apparently appalling science-fiction musical.

They have some difficulties. The financier’s talentless daughter has to be accommodated with a leading role. Meena, the lead pig, has fallen in love with an ice-cream vendor. Most seriously, they have not yet persuaded reclusive rock star Clay Calloway to appear in the show.

Nothing by halves

Here is where we reach the bewildering participation of Bono Vox (good name for a Rainer W Fassbender film there). Who would have imagined when U2 were playing the Dandelion Market that the lead singer would, in the guise of a grizzled lion, end up singing one of their most famous songs to a computer-generated audience of sheep, lizards, geese and alligators? Lord alone knows why the great man bothered to take the job, but, to be fair, he once again confirms he does nothing by halves, three-quarters or four-fifths. You can hear the vocal chords creaking as he exploits the only chance he will probably get to voice the senior role in A Star Is Born.

It is among the least of Sing 2’s conundrums that, whereas Letitia Wright and Taron Egerton get to be English, the Mount Temple alumnus speaks in an American accent. Let us just pretend this is a joke about U2’s perennial transatlantic bias and move on.

There is nothing special about the animation. The lead characters are reasonably easy on the eye, but too many of the secondary players look like human beings with animal heads crudely jammed on unwelcoming shoulders. There is quite enough inspirational stuff about self-belief and the power of positive thinking. It is not quite clear whether we are supposed to be impressed by the closing sci-fi musical or appalled at its apparent vulgarity. 

Sing 2 will probably make five times what West Side Story took.

Opens on January 28th