a critiQal film review Sing (2016)

Plot: In a world like ours (but one entirely inhabited by animals), Buster Moon (McConaughey), a dapper Koala, presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. Buster is an eternal optimist - okay, maybe a bit of a scoundrel - who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Now facing the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

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It’s always such a decision to try to figure out which movies to watch for our reviews on the weekend. There are just so many choices! And, with the website recently on hiatus for 5 months, movies have been piling up even more. So where do we start?

Originally, it looked like it was going to be Atomic Blonde (2017) for this Sunday’s new review. But, thanks to a visit from the grandkids, Atomic Blonde (2017) looked to be out. And, by popular demand (the grandkids were really the only votes that counted), it turned out we were going to be watching Sing instead.

But, would a movie the grandkids voted for really be worth watching? Or were us adults going to be more than a little bored by it? We hoped for the best, and settled in to watch Sing.

The voice talent – as seems to be the case for most animated flicks these days – is pretty robust in Sing. With big name actors like Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon headlining the voices, the voice casting is definitely top-notch. And those two are just the tip of the iceberg. Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Jennifer Saunders and even Jennifer Hudson all voice characters as well. Thankfully, while McConaughey’s drawl is recognizable on occasion, those instances aren’t as many as you’d expect, and the voices let the animation take center stage. With a film all about the singing, that’s even more impressive than usual.

It’s usually a boon for an animated film to mesh the voices with the animation in a way that makes the viewers forget it’s a big name talent talking. The names are there to draw in the viewers, and the animation should override viewers’ preconceived notions of what character the voice usually goes with. And Sing manages to do that with ease.

While the previews made Sing to be sort of an animated “American Idol” (TV), full of nothing but the animals singing funny songs (like the snail who sings the Christopher Cross classic “Ride Like the Wind”), Sing turns out to be much more than that. Sure, the initial auditions are chock full of those funny sequences in the preview, but after that, the film really fills out as the viewer gets to see how these “ordinary folk” get to achieve something that was once only a fleeting dream.

That’s not to say the film goes too deep. It doesn’t. Sing is lighthearted and definitely kid friendly throughout. But watching these animal characters get a little bit of depth through their personal stories does give the film a bit more oomph than many may expect from a kids’ film. It’s not the oomph of, say, the first few minutes of Up (2009) (which brought tears to many surprised moviegoers), but it has more depth than fans of Despicable Me (2010) (and it’s spin-off, Minions (2015)) will expect.

The animation in Sing is top-notch, and done with it’s own bit of style. Animals have really been all the rage lately in the animated world (see Zootopia (2016), among others), and seeing the characters – big and small – brought to life in a singing competition is surprisingly fun to watch. There’s never an animation glitch that will stop the viewers in their tracks, and the cartoonish portrayal of the characters proves to be the right move, as it allows the film to show a world where everyone can get along, and there’s not a prejudice or weight hangup anywhere to be found. In fact, when one of the characters makes a veiled weight reference to a pig (just to put down his “competition”), his comment is tossed aside for the tawdry negativity it is.

With all that being said, Sing isn’t without it’s faults. There’s a bit involving one of the characters that leads to disaster and then really seems to go nowhere. There’s never any sort of repercussion for the character’s behavior. In fact, he neatly shifts blame to the theater owner in a quick move. Viewers will be able to easily see why this happens in the film, as it neatly sets up the second act. But it still really doesn’t make that much sense – and the silly subplot keeps going, interrupting the main flow throughout, until a chase suddenly ends with a looming threat over the character – a threat that is never mentioned again. Neither is the character, for that matter.

And, when the film reaches it’s conclusion, it’s a bit cheesy and a bit predictable. But, by then, the viewer has become invested in what happens to these characters – almost in spite of themselves – so a cheesy happy ending is to be expected. This is a kids movie, after all.

Thankfully, while Sing may be aimed at kids (and judging by the grandkids’ reaction, well received by them), adults should have a good time watching it too – even if the cheesy ending does go a bit over-the-top. And that’s even if they aren’t fans of American Idol” (TV).

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