But it didn’t have to be.
I’m talking about Sing 2. And before anyone points out that the movie came out last year, I’m well aware of that. But in these chronologically challenged times (is today Thursday or macaroni salad?), that matters a lot less than it would have three years ago. And, besides, I’m usually late with my film commentaries; this is just a bit later than the norm.
Disclaimer: although I rewatched Sing before watching Sing 2, I have zero interest in rewatching the latter for the sake of this commentary. It’s been months, and I’m quite sure I’ll get some details wrong, but I’m not gonna pollute my eyeballs and ears any further.
Anyway, given the huge box office success that was the original Sing, a sequel was inevitable. But it didn’t have to be bad.
Or at least not this bad.
You may recall that I didn’t hate Sing. It set out to target a specific market, and did a fine job of hitting the target without shutting out other viewers. I compared it favorably to one out of any random formula novel-for-kids series, and likened it to a Rooney/Garland musical from back in the olden days.
Sing 2 takes its cues from the Vegas revues it’s apparently trying to parody: slick, formulaic, and soulless.
We get that right from the beginning. Remember the plot of Sing? “Save the theater.” Sing 2 is built around “How do we get out of this dump of a theater?” Buster and the gang don’t want the talent scout to recognize how great their current show is so they can pack in more theatergoers. No, they’re looking for a ticket to the big time: same show, same performers, different location (specifically, the entertainment capital of the world. Pardon. THE ENTERTAINMENT CAPITAL OF THE WORLD.)
When they’re rejected, they close the theater and set off on their quest. And everything happens by rote. Buster’s role is reduced to repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth while everyone else saves him: Gunter writes the play, Miss Crawly tracks down the film’s MacGuffin (aka Clay Calloway), Ash triggers the obligatory “Get off your ass and do something” realization that resolves the MacGuffin part of the plot, Suki rescues Buster from the villain. The gang all find their own motivations for overcoming their hangups while Buster just digs himself–and them–deeper into trouble*.
* I’m nowhere close to being the first to be bothered by Buster and Meena’s Me Too scene, which is arguably Buster’s lowest moment in the film.
And, and, and… I could go on, but I’ll spare you.
Except for one thing: Buster’s big pitch is that the gang’s show will not only feature the MacGuffin (voiced by Bono of U2), but include a new song by him. And, to be fair, Sing 2 does have a new U2 song. But it’s not in Buster’s show. Instead, we get a thirty-year-old track, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, at the show’s climactic moment. That new U2 song is relegated to the movie’s epilogue.
That’s a jarring moment for the audience–or should be. But, even worse, it doesn’t make sense in the movie’s internal logic. If it’s supposed to be a “new song”, why does everyone in the audience know it? And if it’s not, why in the name of all that’s sensible, would MacGuffin sign on to sing it every night (and matinee) for an indefinite run? After all, he had to get out of the rut he was in. Why go from one rut to another?
Don’t bother with Sing 2. Better, actively avoid it. Don’t scar your kids’ psyches–but if you have no choice but to let them see it, take your tranquilizers, take your earplugs, and take your blindfolds.
And that’s what truly sad about this sequel. If it had stayed true to the original, it could have been, if not awesome, at least no bad thing. Consider: what if, instead of trying to move up to TECotW, Buster had been trying to recover from a flop of a show that put his beloved theater in the red. Performers and crew leaving because they’re not getting paid. We still could have gotten the quest to recover the MacGuffin–only with Buster taking more of an active role in persuading him–and then using him as a lure to bring back the rest of the gang to rescue the theater once again.
Sure, it’s the same plot. But that’s the point of those old series novels. The characters and their motivations stay the same. The plots are similar. Only the details change. It could have worked here, too.