Following on the wild success of Sing, writer and director Garth Jennings brings us another delightful story in the next chapter of Buster Moon and friends using the varied catalog of several decades of pop music. With over 40 pop songs represented from Shawn Mendes to Billie Eilish, from Prince to The Weekend, and BTS to Taylor Swift, the film is a delightful review of pop music that includes a new song by U2 at the end called “Your Song Saved My Life.” Jennings says U2’s music was, “part of my DNA,” essential to his music canon because it’s so inclusive, “like wrapping arms around you” and embracing you, unlike other music that is too polished that makes you feel like an outsider rather than a participant.
Reflecting on his earliest memories, Jennings says music was part of his life and it was always playing in his house growing up. His parents shared their love of music and brought him to concerts at a young age. His ambitions in telling this story were not unlike the character Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) who has seen the restoration of his Moon Theater, but now feels the call to take it to the next level—to get his show on the biggest entertainment stage of the world. Jennings says that making this film was, “wildly ambitious” but rewarding at the same time bringing such joy and enthusiasm.
(from left) Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings, second from left, with frog), Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey, center) and Gunter (Nick Kroll, right), in Illumination's Sing 2 © 2021 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.
The film’s story focuses on whether Music mogul, Jimmy Crystal (Bobby Cannavale) will give Buster his break. But he must fulfill one request. The hitch was he needed to get the most reclusive rock star, Clay Callaway (played the legendary U2’s Bono), to be part of the show, a near impossibility. Buster becomes desperate since he has no idea how to access Callaway. But with the “guts, stamina, and faith” that his Nana (Jennifer Saunders) challenges him with, he finds a way to overcome obstacles. If it wasn’t for the determination of rocker Ash (Scarlett Johansson), who gets Callaway to consider his contribution to humanity even though he suffers the loss of his wife, Buster would have no show.
And besides trying to convince Callaway to return to music, Buster has to come up with a spectacular show idea otherwise Mr. Crystal dumps him. The ever-creative Gunter (Nick Kroll) shares his sci-fi musical masterpiece that transforms theater forever and becomes Buster’s way to delve into this journey to make his dreams a reality.
(From left) Ash (Scarlett Johansson) and Clay Calloway (Bono) in Illumination’s Sing 2. © 2021 UNIVERSAL STUDIOS. All Rights Reserved.
As Jennings says, this movie is really about joy, because after all, “this is a musical with animals!” It’s about “wonder and magic” and experiencing the “joyful feeling of being together, of being family.” Buster would not be able to pull off such a wildly spectacular show if it weren’t for all his friends and fellow artists. This is usually the case with any great work—it takes an army of people to make something happen that’s worth noting, such as this film! Not to mention the numerous voice actors and singers involved that also include Nick Offerman, Pharrell Williams, and Halsey, but also the untold animators and artists behind the scenes. Jennings says that the process of making his first animated film, Sing, made him feel like a failure since he lacked the skill set for such an ambitious project. Yet, he said, “when you are broken, it’s amazing how creativity can turn on and you keep digging deep.” This film, with its extensive star power and musical set, brings out this creativity.
Just like Buster Moon, perhaps we all can use a bit of motivation in following the deeper desires of our hearts. It takes “guts, stamina, and faith” to fight for what we believe in. And as we reach for those goals, we can remember that joy and family is what is important, not only the ambition of achieving our dreams. Besides, doing it with a little music always helps.