Review: Sing (2016)

Sing

Rating

Director

Christophe Lourdelet, Garth Jennings

Screenplay

Garth Jennings

Length

108 min.

Starring

Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones, Rhea Perlman, Laraine Newman

MPAA Rating

PG for some rude humor and mild peril

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Soundtrack

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Review

While the furor and excitement of music reality shows has long faded, Sing takes the concept and applies it to a fascinating exploration of our differences and how to come together in spite of them.

American Idol debuted in 2002, beginning a craze that lasted for several years, spawning duplicates and derivations. After 15 seasons, in 2016, the series ended before being rebooted just two years later. Conceived of prior to the diminution of the reality competition genre, Sing began production. While the concept may have felt like old hat, the film did not.

A joyous celebration of differences, Illumination Entertainment has long understood how to create audience-friendly animated films that please in many ways. Although they haven’t always been successful in terms of quality, there’s no question they understand how to satisfy their audiences. Sing is a continuation of that legacy and may be the best film they’ve offered up since the original Despicable Me.

As his theater is starting to crumble around him, both physically and financially, Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) struggles to find that one great idea that will draw audiences into his aging theater and make him the success he always promised his dad he would become. When he comes up with the grand idea of a singing competition, his dreams begin to fly, but a flyer typo sent to the entire city endangers his plans as the prize money he’s putting up is far less than what has inadvertently been promised.

Among the talented stars that try out for his American Idol-like contest are Reese Witherspoon as a pig who gave up her teenage dreams to marry and have 25 children; Seth MacFarlane as a crooning mouse who plays sax on street corners and longs for a luxury lifestyle; Scarlett Johansson as a hard rock/punk porcupine dumped by her boyfriend (Beck Bennett) when she decides to participate in the competition without him; Tori Kelly as a self-conscious pachyderm urged to compete by her pushy grandfather (Jay Pharoah); Taron Egerton as a mountain gorilla with musical dreams that don’t involve being lookout for his criminal father (Peter Serafinowicz); and Nick Kroll as the sparkly pig forced to partner with Witherspoon’s porcine chanteuse.

Other prominent voices in the cast include John C. Reilly as Buster’s sheep friend Eddie; the film’s director Garth Jennings as Buster’s elderly iguana assistant; Leslie Jones as Kelly’s mother; Jennifer Saunders as the elder Nana Noodleman, Reilly’s grandmother and once star of the very theater Moon now owns; Jennifer Hudson as the young Nana; and Rhea Perlman as the llama from the bank who wants its debts paid or she will foreclose on the theater.

What makes this film so exciting is its use of old and new music to sell the story, hand-picked tunes that evoke a sense of environment and theme in ways that haven’t been so effectively done since Moulin Rouge! The vocal work is mostly astounding, with Reilly and McConaughey the most consistently frustrating.

The film suffers from a script that’s largely predictable, sometimes a bit too precious, but surprisingly well constructed. There are twists that make absolute sense, but they all blended together in a compelling way.

Even if you aren’t a fan of the American Idol obsession, there’s something grounding and humanistic about this film. Instead of making the show about a competition, Sing brings its characters together so that they can enable and support one another.

A genuinely heartfelt and heartwarming story, Sing radiates joy at every turn, features strong animation styles, and never lets the audience forget that it needs and wants to be uplifted by the narrative and themes of the film. It’s an animated spectacle that may sit on an overplayed concept, but does so with great style and incredible fun.

Review Written

September 12, 2018

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