‘SING 2’ Review: Bono is ‘The Best Thing’ About His Voice Acting Debut

An animated movie may seem like a weird place to find the type of cathartic experience that “Sing 2” provides, but it finds a way. Being a fan of U2 certainly plays into the level of enjoyment in “Sing 2,” but the story about working past your doubters to prove them wrong and putting your best work forward is very inspiring, even if the message is conveyed through an animated lens. Bono steals the show in his voice acting debut, making “Sing 2” the perfect holiday getaway for the whole family.

Bono (L), Scarlett Johansson (R) in “Sing 2” as Clay and Ash. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Man, Bono and tragedy are words that seemingly go together well. Anyone who follows U2 knows that Bono writes a lot of music for his wife and his mother, whom he lost as a teen. A portion of U2’s 2015 and 2018 tours, the “iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE” and “eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE” tours, featured songs about the loss of his mother, “Iris (Hold Me Close),” and falling in love with his now-wife, Ali, “Song for Someone.” His character, Clay Calloway, filled with similar black pants, leather jackets, and occasionally shades (as seen above), is a sort of meta take on Bono’s own career and offers him redemption for “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark” in the form of this animated play that also features rock ballads and performers swinging through the audience. Clay is an aging rockstar, who hasn’t played or heard any of his songs in the 15 years since the loss of his wife. He loses all hope but is dragged in after being “Stuck in a Moment” that he can’t get out of. While Bono is a first-time voice actor, he does well in his role. In all fairness, Clay is like a meta take on the rockstar from the north side of Dublin himself, and it’s not hard to imagine Bono theatrically moving around while recording lines similar to how he moves on-stage. Bono is also treated like a hot commodity, never overused, and left “Staring at the Sun,” sorry in advance for the U2 puns, and this protects Bono from having to do too much. When he inevitably shows up and sings, chills will run down your spine as he hits the opening notes to “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” which “Sing 2” combines the style of the original album version with the choir version found on “Rattle and Hum.” While on the topic of U2, their original song for the movie, “Your Song Saved My Life” plays far better in the context of the movie as opposed to being played by itself. It’s a radio-friendly song that will (maybe) get younger audiences into the group, and hopefully, they will forget about the “Songs of Innocence”-iTunes debacle. The only complaint regarding Clay is the missed opportunity to call Bono, “Paw Hewson.”

Bono plays Clay Calloway in “Sing 2.” Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

In regards to the rest of the voice cast, Bobby Cannavale shines as Jimmy Crystal, the man who produces Buster Moon’s (Matthew McConaughey) show. Filled with mob movie tropes in his passive-aggressive threats, to literally holding Buster over a ledge while threatening to drop him, Cannavale fits right in as the main antagonist. Scarlett Johansson is an amazing singer and has far better lines than her outings as Black Widow. Taron Egerton also has comedic moments as Johnny, including his scenes practicing the choreography for his scenes.

Whilst being a movie intended for children, “Sing 2” also attempts to talk about serious topics in the entertainment industry. These include an actress being uncomfortable with a romance scene, the sexism in pay equality, and nepotism à la Sofia Coppola in “The Godfather III.” Aside from Scarlett Johansson’s character, Ash, playing hardball with the club, none of these issues are touched upon in much detail. Once again, Scar-Jo was the only one to really fight the system, as seen in her recent dispute with Disney. It just seems odd to bring up these types of issues — which do exist — and then not show that change can be made. Menna (Tori Kelly), eventually figures out her romance scenes by envisioning Gunter (Eric André) as her real crush, Alfonso (Pharrell Williams) while Porsha Crystal (Halsey), daughter of the big boss, eventually comes to terms with not being the star of the show. These were the easy answers to some difficult questions, and even just a little bit more could have improved these issues. It’s also not as if these issues were lightly implied, it’s fair to say that they are pretty on the nose. So it once again raises the question of why bring them up at all if they’re just small roadblocks? 

The cast of “Sing 2” with their animated counterparts. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Most crucial to “Sing 2” is its soundtrack. Generally speaking, most songs fit into their scenes, such as Scarlett Johansson singing U2’s “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” but other songs do feel a bit out of place, such as the album version of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” being inserted while missing the opportunity to have Taron Egerton, who literally played Elton John while singing his songs in “Rocketman,” give his best rendition. The case can be made that Egerton already got to sing John’s music, even singing “I’m Still Standing” in “Sing,” but this felt like a layup. The rendition of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is chill-inducing as Clay Calloway comes out from a tunnel playing power chords, but a nitpick as a fan of the band is that the verse Bono sings doesn’t sound like him. U2 nowadays plays the song tuned down a few steps, and perhaps playing the song in what sounded like close to, or the original key led to this sounding the way it did. While “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is a great choice to use in the final act of the play in “Sing 2,” “One” could have been cool with the crowd illuminating the theater, or perhaps a newer song like “Love Is Bigger Than Anything In Its Way” could have been used with animated peace signs swinging towards the climax of the song as seen in U2’s performances of the song.

“Sing 2” is a visually engaging and lively movie for kids and parents to enjoy. It’s not revolutionary, but what more can be expected in a movie filled with A-list actors and famous singers? Filled with a soundtrack of radio hits and U2, it’ll have feet tapping while converting some younger listeners to the church of U2; or will pass the mantle “from father to son,” as taken from U2’s “Dirty Day.” U2’s song, “Your Song Saved My Life,” is also the perfect song for U2 to write. U2’s music is very personal, and in an award-winning paper I had written this year, the main point was that “The Joshua Tree,” which has a couple of songs featured on the “Sing 2” soundtrack, features open-ended lyrics that allow listeners to make meaning of these songs on their own (though other U2 songs apply beyond “The Joshua Tree”). While making movie reviews personal is not something I ever do, I wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to Bono and U2. It’s “All Because of You,” or them, that I am the man I am today, and they are the “best thing about me.” Their music has been with me since my teenage years and saved my life during a tumultuous time a few years back during my freshman year of college. U2 not only saved my life but so many more with their wonderful songs including those heard in “Sing 2.” “Illumination and Universal took a big swing with casting Bono, and despite vacationing with co-star McConaughey in real life, his role in “Sing 2” was heartfelt and something unique. It’s “Out of Control” how good Bono is in “Sing 2,” but whether he was good or bad in the film, “I Will Follow.”

Grade: B(ono is great) 

“Sing 2” will be released in theaters on December 22.

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