Sing (2016)

Auditions begin 2016

The third animated movie in 2016 to feature walking, talking animals, Sing uses the American Idol formula and shrewdly applies it to the world of Zootopia (2016). Written and directed by Garth Jennings — the guy who pulled off the splendid adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) without a ‘hitch’ — Sing works as a sugary distraction, one that delivers an uplifting message about chasing one’s dreams and overcoming those potential barriers that may be blocking the way, the flick remaining slick and engaging throughout, thanks to a stellar cast, wall-to-wall jukebox-ready tunes and an array of crazy critters.

Sing is set in a world just like our own but with one tiny difference — it’s entirely inhabited by colorful anthropomorphic animals. Enter Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), an optimistic theater-owning koala with larger-than-life dreams. Having fallen on hard times, Mr. Moon longs to preserve his once great show spot, the bank threatening foreclosure on his beloved building due to poor acts and dwindling attendees.

... and this little piggy went to ... boogie on down!
… and this little piggy went to … boogie on down!

Determined to turn things around, Buster and his long-time secretary, a dotty old chameleon with a glass eye named Miss Crawly (director Jennings supplying the vocals), hatch a hair-brained scheme to throw a grand event — a nation-wide singing contest — in the hope of enticing members of the community to save their theater. But, when the $1,000 prize money is accidentally advertised as $100,000, the false sum attracts an assortment of local talent — the show and its many competitors putting a strain on the time-strapped Buster.

After days of auditions, five lead contenders emerge: Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a self-sacrificing mother of 25 piglets who longs to be something other than a housewife; Meena (Tori Kelly), a shy teenage elephant with a terrible case of stage fright; Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a greedy, jazz-loving mouse whose big headedness has made him an outcast; Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a punk-rock porcupine trying to break away from her arrogant, unsupportive boyfriend, Lance (Beck Bennett); and Johnny (Taron Egerton), a Cockney gorilla whose passion for music grates against his felonies family’s ideals. Now, as the contestants try to sort out their own personal problems, Buster must find a way to deliver what he promised before the curtain drops.

Opening with a lively first act that weaves in and out of a Miami-like animal metropolis — through bustling cityscapes and peaceful suburbs — Sings starts off strong with writer-director Jennings introducing viewers to each of the main protagonists, highlighting their domestic situations and preferred style of music. We see Rosita explode with piggy-power as she belts out a rendition of Katy Perry’s ‘Firework,’ the rest of the cast following suit, this lively curtain-raiser giving viewers a delicious taste of what’s to come.

'TESTING, 1, 2, 3!'
‘TESTING, 1, 2, 3!’

Featuring over 65 hit songs from various decades (though only few are played in full), Sing really shines when it comes to its snazzy showmanship, Illumination — the animation company behind Minions (2015) — crafting a number of applause-worthy musical acts. From a swingin’ dance interlude that sees Rosita ‘move and groove’ to the Gypsy Kings’ Spanish ditty ‘Bamboléo’ in several supermarket isles, to Johnny’s piano-slamming rendition of Elton John’s ‘I’m Still Standing!,’ each and every tuneful pick-me-up is a showstopper. And while, sure, the character design ain’t all that inspired, some of the ‘action’ beats are, particularly a sequence that sees Buster use a number of neon-glowing squids to light up a flashy, hand-crafted aquarium stage before it collapses in a catastrophic deluge that truly brings down the house.

In terms of themes and whatnot, Sing doesn’t give us anything we haven’t seen before — the film dropping those affirming speeches about embracing individuality and so forth, these aimed squarely at the kiddies — every character replenishing their misplaced self-esteem by the time the film’s flamboyant grand finale hits. Running at a lengthy 108 minutes, however, Sing, could’ve done with a few less ‘backing vocalists.’

Be that as it may, the bubbly cast give it their all, chiefly Matthew McConaughey, Kubo and the Two Strings (2016), who portrays Buster Moon, a well-intentioned marsupial with a bad habit of stretching the truth, McConaughey’s natural magnetism and spirited charisma serving as the flick’s tempo. Reese Witherspoon, Legally Blonde (2001), seems to be enjoying herself as Rosita, a selfless piggy who finds her inner diva thanks to her competition partner Gunter, a spandex wearing double-threat (yes, this porker can sing and dance) with Nick Kroll, Sausage Party (2016), bringing the German dynamo to boisterous life.

Missus Horton hears a koala
Missus Horton hears a koala

Elsewhere, Taron Egerton, Eddie the Eagle (2016), showcases his natural singing chops as the soulful gorilla Johnny — whose story arc, which sees him forced into a life of crime, is perhaps the flick’s most engaging — whilst funny man John C. Reilly, Wreck-It Ralph (2012), lends his vocals to a sheep named Eddie, Buster’s wealthy friend who eventually helps Mr. Moon out of a jam via an amusing car-wash scene. As one would expect, singer-songwriter Tori Kelly unleashes the film’s biggest tune as Meena, the stagehand elephant who’s afraid of the spotlight, while Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane (who we all know can sing) is a great as Mike, a Sinatra loving Rat Pack-type rodent.

A cinematic karaoke session featuring a farmyard of distinctive characters (my fave side-act, a troop of kawaii J-pop foxes), bright vocal work and a plethora of radio-friendly tracks (ranging from David Bowie to Taylor Swift) — that most should kinda know off by heart — Sing is essentially as much fun as one could possibly hope to have whilst watching personified animals slay a crowd. Look, take this one at face value and you’re guaranteed to come out singin.’

3.5 / 5 – Great

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Sing is released through Universal Pictures Australia