Illumination Entertainment continue their challenge against the might of Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks with their first musical, Sing, and a massive improvement over their last film, The Secret Life Of Pets
Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) is koala bear in love with the theatre and owns the grand Moon Theater in a city of anthropomorphic animals. But the theatre has seen better days and Buster is in a financial hole. As a final gambit, Buster decides to host a singing competition with a $100,000 prize.
When word spreads Buster is inundated with contestants including Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a hard working housewife, Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a teenage punk rocker, Mike (Seth MacFarlane), an arrogant crooner, gangster son Johnny (Taron Egerton) and Meena (Tori Kelly), a stageshy elephant with a tremendous voice.
Sing was written and directed by Garth Jennings, and it is strong effort for his first animated film. The film is unapologetically formulaic, having a story that audiences have seen many times before with predictable plot points and character arcs. Yet it gets the formula right.
Sing has positive messages for children, like follow your dreams, overcome your fears and even though one character states he wants to win the competition it is about the taking part. The final third was about the competitors putting on good show, a bit like the 2011 reboot of The Muppets.
Its winning attribute is its characters who are a likeable bunch with the exception of Mike who’s self-confidence that is grating. Sing has a great voice cast of big stars, many of them being natural singers. They could have phoned in their performances for an easy paycheque.
McCounaughey was earnest as Buster and his love for the arts is infectious, overriding some of his more questionable actions. Johansson did well playing a sarcastic teenager and offered a painfully emotional rendition of “Call Me Baby” after her breakup. Egerton continues to show his range as an actor and why he is a star in the making.
Sing also had an impressive supporting cast, having actors like John C. Reilly and Peter Serafinowicz in straight man roles. However, it’s Jennings as Buster’s elderly assistant and the dancing German-accented pig Gunter, voiced by Nick Kroll, who got some of the biggest laughs.
Before Sing Jennings was known for making comedies like The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy movie and Son Of Rambow. This experience proved handy for Sing, giving the film plenty of clever and witty line and misdirection. There is one farting joke that aims towards very young audience members but there is plenty for older viewers to enjoy.
Jennings directed the film with Christophe Lourdelet, an experienced animator who worked for Aardman and Illumination, and together with their animation team the pair created wonderful continuous scenes. The camera movement were used to great effect for the chase sequences, visual gags and showing the city.
Sing also has excellent character designs: there was attention to little details like the hair on the animals and a nice touch was the quills on all the porcupines were made to look like different hairstyles. It is Illumination’s best film from an animation standpoint.
Sing is far from groundbreaking, nor does it offer the intelligence and emotion like Illumination’s rivals have offered. Yet it is a well done, feel good film for that the whole family can enjoy.