Sing (2016) Universal/Musical-Comedy RT: 110 minutes Rated PG (some rude humor, mild peril) Director: Garth Jennings Screenplay: Garth Jennings Music: Joby Talbot Release date: December 21, 2016 (US) Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, Nick Kroll, Nick Offerman, Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz, Beck Bennett, Leslie Jones, Jay Pharoah, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Rhea Perlman, Laraine Newman.
It’s highly unlikely that the target audience (or their parents, for that matter) for the computer-animated Sing has any familiarity with the old “let’s put on a show” musicals of the 30s and 40s. That’s pretty much what Sing is expect it features anthropomorphic animals instead of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland with its story of a wannabe showman putting on a show in order to save his failing theater. Think Zootopia meets American Idol. While Sing may not be on par with Inside Out or Moana, it is better than Storks or The Wild Life. It’s on the same level as this summer’s smash hit The Secret Life of Pets; it’s good not great.
The storyline is as old as cinema itself. Theater impresario Buster Moon (McConaughey, Magic Mike), an optimistic koala bear who caught the show biz disease at an early age, is about to lose his theater. His last few shows have bombed and the bank is ready to foreclose. He decides to hold a singing competition as a way of raising money. When word gets out about the $100,000 grand prize- a typo on the part of Moon’s elderly iguana assistant (voiced by writer-director Jennings), it’s supposed to be $1000- animals from all walks of life line up to try out. Each of the five chosen competitors has his/her own story. There’s an elephant (singer Kelly) with really bad stage fright, a punk rock porcupine (Johansson, The Avengers) who recently split from her boyfriend, a Frank Sinatra-type mouse (MacFarlane, Family Guy) who runs afoul of bear thugs and an underappreciated mama pig (Witherspoon, Walk the Line) with a golden voice. There’s also a gorilla (Egerton, Kingsman: The Secret Service) who’d rather sing than join his father’s (Serafinowicz, Guardians of the Galaxy) criminal gang.
Sing plays out in an expected way, replete with a disaster that threatens to end Moon’s dreams, culminating in a song-filled finale that saves the day. Sing is completely predictable but fun. It has some great numbers, especially a rendition of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” that goes a long way towards mending the broken relationship between gorilla father and son. It also has some very funny bits and sight gags. One has the mother pig coming up with an inventive solution of her child-care problem (she has 25 piglets!). Think Rube Goldberg. The computer-animation is bright, colorful, vibrant and energetic. The camerawork is also quite good the way it slips, slides and speeds around the various set pieces. The rooftop escape sequence near the end is rather thrilling.
The voice talents do a very good job. The characters are likable. One of things I like about Sing is that Jennings never feels compelled to turn any of the characters into heroes that save the day with selfless acts of courage. He also stays away from hip pop-culture gags and references, a trait that became tiresome by the second Shrek movie in 2004. Instead, he goes for old school-type visual humor like the iguana’s glass eye always popping out at the worst moments. It was that glass eye that increased the prize money. Sing may not be terribly original or innovative, but it is genuinely fun and funny. It runs a bit longer than it needs to but judging by the reaction it got from the kid’s at a Friday morning showing, it’s not really an issue. You know a movie works when kids get up and dance. I think both kids and parents will find much to enjoy about Sing. It makes for a nice afternoon trip to the movies.