Written and Directed by Garth Jennings.
Featuring the voice talents of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Jennifer Saunders, Peter Serafinowicz, Leslie Jones, Jay Pharoah, Nick Offerman, Beck Bennett, Garth Jennings, and Jennifer Hudson.
A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.
At first glance, the title “Sing” for an animated feature centered on a world consisting of talking animals sounds incredibly lazy and generic. It’s wholly obvious to studios that speaking critters rake in gangbusters at the box office (regardless of critical reception), so apparently now the question is how high is the ceiling for a feature on singing animals? The answer is fairly high, as writer and director Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) focuses on an admirable message regarding inspiration and simply doing what you love, hence the title Sing. As Shia LaBeouf once said, JUST DO IT!!!
It doesn’t matter if you have an audience or not, have entered the competition for the $100,000 in cash reward or are participating for the joy that comes from indulging in a favorable hobby; all that matters is that you just follow what you feel inside, blocking out all skepticism, whether it be from cynical family members or a severe case of stage fright. As you can probably guess, a lengthy verse of Sing is fixated on comparing and contrasting optimism vs cynicism, most accomplished with koala Buster Moon (owner of a once thriving and highly respected theater establishment that is now dead attendance-wise and bleeding money dry, and is also voiced with smooth-talking class by Matthew McConaughey in his second fantastic voice-over performance of the year, following up this summer’s Kubo and the Two Strings), and an overly shy teenage elephant (Grammy-nominated Tori Kelly) who has a beautiful voice, but not the confidence to share it with the world.
Also, even though a good portion of Sing hones in on Buster trying to revitalize consumer interest with the art-form he fell in love with as a young koala and an elephant trying to overcome her fear of public presentation, Jennings makes room to showcase a wide range of adorable creatures, ranging from pigs, bears, gorillas, mice, and more. It’s actually a surprising success at how the feature manages to act as a revolving door of scenes for each major competitor in the singing competition while making all of their story arcs feel relevant to the narrative as a whole, without anything feeling disjointed. I came away with pleasant feelings for everyone involved, whether it be Scarlett Johansson’s punk-rock porcupine trying to reach stardom without selling out her musical roots, or Seth MacFarlane’s shady saxophone playing rodent who constantly disrespects the other participants and is only in it for the money.
Naturally, the performances in a movie called Sing are largely on-point, making sure not to waste the impressive bevy of talent accumulated. Casting actors such as Seth MacFarlane that have singing backgrounds is obviously a step in the right direction, but even little scenes where Matthew McConaughey is forced to sing ‘Call Me Maybe’ for a quick few seconds land with a fair deal of humor. Although I wish they would have changed the lyrics to “Call Me ALRIGHT ALRIGHT!”. Joking aside, the point is that the cast assembled does a great job with all of the musical numbers assigned to them. I have no idea what Taron Egerton’s singing background is like, but he definitely surprised me and was able to hang with the more experienced talent.
Furthermore, there is a LOT of music to digest in Sing, which is both a good thing and a disservice. The marketing department is touting Sing as having as many as over 85 popular songs featured, which is definitely a true statement, but the songs come at you so rapidly that by the end of the movie you’re only left remembering a select few. More specifically, you’re probably only left remembering the songs that come up during the parts of the film that are most engaging, such as the final act which hits a few genuinely emotional beads. There’s also a scene where Seth MacFarlane gets to sing Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’, and he hits a home-run with the performance.
It should also be pointed out that while much of the music featured in Sing comes from booming modern day mainstream artists (everything from Ed Sheeran to Katy Perry to Taylor Swift to Kanye West), the film does attempt to cover a wide variety of musical genres. This is accomplished by making each primary contestant different from one another in musical taste, which is also fittingly reflected in each animal’s wardrobe. There’s an audition sequence early on in the film that I could have watched an entire movie on, and it’s in this moment where Jennings runs the gamut regarding genres and songs. At one point I even heard ‘Safety Dance’ by Men Without Hats, which MORE KIDS SHOULD BE MADE AWARE Of DAMMIT!!!.
Make no mistake, Sing doesn’t really fall into the trap of becoming a film built entirely on a gimmick of animals singing from scene to scene. The writing gives each character a fairly intriguing back-story along with some direction as to where they are each going in the plot. Even if some of the writing will be completely predictable to adults, that doesn’t stop the movie from being entertaining, and absolutely flying by with its 108-minute running time. Also, there probably could have been one less scene or two of stage disasters during rehearsals, because the movie just isn’t as interesting when it’s about a koala trying to scrounge up money or fix problems with the building.
As previously mentioned, Sing is highly entertaining and hilarious to boot. There is an elderly female reptilian assistant (voiced by Garth Jennings himself) to Buster that is on the receiving end of some outlandish physical humor, mostly pertaining to an eye bulging out of its socket. Watching pigs perform elaborate musical numbers in skintight outfits is also good for a creative laugh, mostly due to the charisma and energy from Reese Witherspoon and Nick Kroll. Finally, I also need to mention that there is an action sequence towards the end with some of the most stunning animation I have ever seen period.
So yeah, despite being a self-professed curmudgeon for most mainstream music (to give you an example, I recognize most of the songs in the movie but not the artists, and don’t particularly care for most of the songs anyway), I enjoyed Sing. It never leans on the concept of singing animals too much, allowing for some character driven scenes that make us actually care about these animals, why they are in the contest, and most importantly, their aspirations and dreams.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★