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Review: Bono joins Matthew McConaughey to belt out a joyously over-the-top sequel in ‘Sing 2’

“Sing 2”
Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), center, and Gunter (Nick Kroll), right), in the animated movie “Sing 2.”
(Illumination Entertainment / Universal Pictures)

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Countless creatures great and small make an encore in “Sing 2,” the whirling-dervish sequel to Illumination’s 2016 hit animated musical, “Sing.” It’s a vibrant, amusing comedy whose story, from returning writer-director Garth Jennings, may be a bit overstuffed for its intended audience. Though that’s not likely to hurt this peppy, often visually dazzling follow-up.

Impresario Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), a pie-in-the-sky koala bear with showbiz in his heart, is back, along with many of the first film’s endearing characters, as he tries to catapult his performing troupe from local success at his New Moon Theater to the big time in glitzy entertainment capital Redshore City (think Las Vegas on steroids).

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But, as Ringo Starr sang, it don’t come easy.

The storied U2 frontman takes on his first substantial acting gig in an animated film that allows him to contemplate grief and the healing properties of music.

Buster must hatch a knockout concept to impress Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale), the gangsterish — and rather insane — white wolf and owner of Redshore’s Crystal Tower Theater, who’s seeking the ultimate show for his glamorous venue. Buster and Gunter (Nick Kroll), an untethered pig on creative overload, end up pitching an idea so out of this world that Jimmy can’t say no. The hitch: Buster must deliver the legendary — and famously reclusive — lion of rock music, Clay Calloway (U2’s Bono), to star.

The loaded setup plays out in lots of frantically entertaining ways as Buster and persuasive punk-rock porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson) work to convince the resistant Clay, still mourning his long-dead wife and muse, to join their show. This all while Buster juggles the egos, insecurities and expectations of his singer-dancers as the ruthless Jimmy threatens the little koala’s life at every turn.

Can Buster’s eager cast master the flashy and complicated show’s moves and grooves and pull off the most amazing production in the history of the Crystal Tower Theater? Have you ever seen one of these movies?

Voicework is typically terrific with a plucky McConaughey leading a band of pros that includes Reese Witherspoon as mama pig Rosita, Taron Egerton as out-of-step gorilla Johnny, singer Tori Kelly playing bashful elephant Meena, Pharrell Williams as Meena’s ice cream-vending love interest, Eric André as a narcissistic yak, singer Halsey playing Jimmy’s spoiled performer-daughter, filmmaker Jennings as Buster’s elderly, glass-eyed assistant, and many other talents.

The film, like its predecessor, is packed with an eclectic array of hit tunes from both current and classic rock and pop talents: Elton John, U2 (three of their older songs are heard plus a fine new one written for the movie), Billie Eilish, Drake, Taylor Swift, Adele, Cardi B, Shawn Mendes, and on and on. Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire,” Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “I Say a Little Prayer” and U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” are used especially well. Also, as in the original film, the actors sing their own parts.

There’s plenty of eye-popping animation, nifty choreography and dynamic action — both on stage and off — to keep viewers invested, even if a 10-minute trim wouldn’t have been the worst thing. And if great narrative logic isn’t the film’s strong suit, it includes a string of mini life lessons that add a bit of nourishment to this joyously over-the-top meal.

'Sing 2'

Rated: PG, for some rude material and mild peril/violence

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Playing: Starts Dec. 22 in general release


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