Directed by Garth Jennings.
Featuring the voice talents of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Peter Serafinowicz, Tori Kelly, Garth Jennings, Rhea Perlman, Nick Kroll, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Saunders, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones, and Adam Buxton.
Koala bear Buster Moon (the voice of Matthew McConaughey) is easily the least successful impresario in the theatre world. All his shows flop and, staring bankruptcy in the face, he decides to launch a singing contest. One that attracts a long queue of hopefuls, including a crooning mouse, a heavy metal skunk, a shy singing elephant and a narcissistic pig. But who will win the $100,000 prize?
With Gru and his Minions due to return this summer in Despicable Me 3, Illumination is plugging the gap with new animation, Sing, which borrows heavily from the unlikely combination of Disney and X-Factor.
In a city populated entirely by animals, loveable koala and theatrical impresario Buster Moon is trying to get a singing competition off the ground. When it comes to humanoid animals, we’ve been here before in Zootropolis, except that was Disney’s diversity movie and this doesn’t have the same intentions. And that singing competition is a familiar TV format, from X-Factor all the way down.
So cue a long line of acts. Pig Rosita (Witherspoon) who spends all her time looking after 15 little piglets. A mouse called Mike (Seth MacFarlane), an old fashioned smooth crooner in the style of Sinatra, in hoc to a gang of Russian bears. Heavy metal skunk Ash (Scarlett Johansson), who makes it to the final without her feckless boyfriend. A K-Pop group of foxes. A singing elephant who’s painfully shy. The list goes on and it doesn’t stop there because Moon is helped out by his sheep friend Eddie (John C. Reilly) and his elderly but well-meaning secretary Miss Crawley, a chameleon who never changes colour and keeps losing her glass eye at the most awkward of moments. It’s a lot of characters to juggle. In fact, it’s too many and while some of them are nicely developed – Miss Crawley is a scene stealer – others simply fade into the background.
With a singing competition comes, of course, plenty of songs. Apart from Mike’s Sinatra-style numbers, they’re all contemporary and that doesn’t just apply to the performances from the acts in the competition. The film is peppered with musical references, all lasting a few bars and then they’re gone to make room for the next one. Keeping up with them takes some effort.
But what makes Sing different from the majority of recent animations is that it’s aimed at adults, not kids. The children in the audience will get some of the more recent music, but that’s about it. The adults, however, will love Rosita’s dance routine in the supermarket to Gipsy Kings’ Bamboleo (and are likely to remember Snoopy doing the flamenco to the same track in The Peanuts Movie). They’ll be mouthing the words to Elton John’s I’m Still Standing as sung by gorilla Johnny (Taron Edgerton). And the older grown-ups won’t be able to miss that Eddie’s mother, Nana Noodleman (Jennifer Saunders) is completely based on Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond from Sunset Boulevard, complete with a white Rolls Bentley and a penguin-come-butler based on Eric Von Stroheim.
The film was America’s family Christmas movie for 2016, but Universal has timed its UK release to perfection. The end of January is the most miserable time of year: the holiday is a dim and distant memory, it’s cold and miserable and spring is just out of reach. Exactly the time for a pick-me-up. Especially when it comes with a decent enough storyline, plenty of laughs and lots of instantly recognisable songs.
Compared to last year’s crop of animations – or, indeed, stablemates The Minions – it’s unlikely that Sing will have the same staying power. But it is very much a film for now – right now. And there’s something ever-so-slightly gratifying about the youngsters not having it all their own way when it comes to animation…….
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★