Making a sequel to any film is hard. Not only do the filmmakers have to up their game and bring in way more than what was present in the first film, but you have to take the characters audiences loved in the first film and put them on a bigger journey where they grow and expand. It's a complex job and it's not one that I envy doing. However, sometimes some films are just so good that they don't need a sequel and work perfectly as a standalone film that for some reason had a continuation and I think "Sing 2" is the latest animated sequel that fits into the category. I was someone who really enjoyed the first "Sing" from Illumination as I found it had some fun characters that I liked watching and also had a lot of fun musical numbers and bright animated sequences to keep me entertained. In fact, I might just go out there and say that it might be my favorite film from the studio. This sequel, on the other hand, does try to step up the bar from the previous film, but it doesn't reach it and it constantly just made me keep thinking back to the first film and why it worked so well. It's certainly not a bad film by any means and I did find it a lot better than Illumination's previous sequels the past few years like the annoying "Despicable Me 3" and the messy "The Secret Life of Pets 2", but it does make some mistakes that keep it down and failing to reach the soaring heights it desperately wants to grasp.
After the events of the first film, theater owner Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) has successfully made his group of singers from the previous film including pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), her eccentric dance partner Gunter (Nick Kroll), gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), and elephant Meena (Tori Kelly) into a cast who have been putting on successful shows in his small theater in the city. However, Buster has his sights on taking his shows up to the big leagues despite being turned down several times. Undeterred, he and the cast, as well as rockstar Ash (Scarlet Johansson) set off for Redshore City to try to make it big on stage. Once there, they try to impress media mogul Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale) into trying to set up a show and win him over with the idea of a space stage show with music set to rockstar Clay Calloway (Bono). Crystal wants Calloway in the show and Buster sets off to find him to keep the show on and keep Crystal happy, even if it includes casting his spoiled teenaged daughter Porsha (Halsey) into the show, while the others try desperately to help make it big and put on the show.
Before I went to watch this film, I decided to go back and revisit the first film from five years ago which still entertained me though left me with a big question by the end of it. How do you make a sequel to it? The first film seemed to tie everything up perfectly with each character breaking through their problems by the end. It was a great way for the film to wrap up. This sequel did answer my question on how they made a sequel to the first film, but the answer it gave me ended up being one filled with problems. This is one of those sequels that try to make it better than the first film by really making it big and taking these characters to a bigger city and having them do bigger things than they did in the first film, but it also repeats similar story beats from the first film which results in a film that feels like more of a retread than a sequel. It reminded me of sequels like "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" or "The Hangover Part II" where the film moves the characters from a smaller location to a bigger one to make it seem grander while having them undergo similar challenges like they did in the first film. A lot of moments in this film that seem to be moving the story forward are rather just repeats of scenes in the first film like the search for Calloway reminding me of Buster trying to impress Nana Noodleman in the first film, a scene where Crystal is rejecting other possible talents singing pop songs reminded me of the audition scene in the first film and even most of the older characters are undergoing similar struggles as they did in the first film. I'll get to this more in a bit when it comes to the characters. Even the third act and how it's built up to it is like the first film. Speaking of pop songs, this film adds a lot more of them as well as more musical numbers, and most of them are passable. I will say that I did really like both the beginning number which I found fun and exciting and the climax number which was what the film was building up to and I think it does pay off well. However, the numbers sadly don't cover up the fact that most of the film just seems to retread the first film and this is not exactly how you make a sequel. While I'll give writer/director Garth Jennings credit that I think he did the best he could've with this sequel, it seemed to me that he didn't know where to take his characters and I do feel bad for him since he is a talented filmmaker. I think that Illumination would've probably done better had they made a standalone sequel instead with a new cast of characters breaking out of their shells rather than bringing back the old ones since most of them who are back aren't given a whole lot of development and mostly end up doing similar stuff to what they did in the first film while most of the new ones don't have much to work off of. The contestants like Rosita, Johnny, and Meena almost have similar challenges like they did in the first film. Rosita instead of trying to break out of her shell and show her performance capabilities to her family is now trying to conquer a fear of heights, Johnny is once again trying to learn a new skill and appease an unsatisfied upper figure but instead of him learning the piano and appeasing his father he's now trying to dance while appeasing a snooty choreographer, and Meena is now trying to overcome the fact that she's never been in love and having to dance and sing in a romantic scene rather than overcome a fear of stage fright. This isn't exactly what I'd call character development as much as slightly disguising their previous conflicts. Even Buster is slightly similar to how he is in the first film since he once again lies to put his show on and also has conflicts with an upper figure, this time an angry talent scout rather than a banker though without the same urgency. The one character from the first film that does feel and act differently than she did in the first film was Ash which I did like. She was a lot more confident and supportive and the scenes she has with certain characters really helped make the film stronger. As far as the new characters go, there's not much to say about them. Jimmy Crystal is a grumpy villain trying to keep his reputation in shape and his daughter Porsha is pretty much spoiled and has a good singing voice but is a terrible actress, and Johnny's snooty choreographer came off as annoying and didn't feel like a conflict like Johnny's father did. The two new characters I did like were Clay Calloway who had some good bonding scenes with some characters and a dancer named Nooshy (Letitia Wright) who works with Johnny to help improve his choreography though I do think she should've been in the film a bit more. I will also add that the animation in this film is once again just as good as it has been in Illumination's other films. The one thing that definitely stands out the most in the film is the incredible sets. The look of Redshore City was especially impressive as it looked like a unique take of this world's version of Las Vegas, much how the city in the first film was a take on Santa Monica. It really gave the film some flair and the colorful moments also helped.
Overall, I just found "Sing 2" an okay sequel. Despite the animation still looking top-notch, the story and characters felt more like retreads of the first film rather than it being a progression forward. It's an overall fine film and I certainly think that children will love it. The kids in my theater who saw the film with me certainly did, but I didn't get much from it. For me, this film doesn't hit a lot of the wrong notes, but it doesn't hit a lot of the right ones either. It just comes off as a passable performance.