This has been a stellar year for animated movies, so I had high hopes for this final outing. With the expected hits of Finding Dory and Moana, mixed with surprises like Trolls and Kubo & The Two Strings, I was wondering if Sing would find its place. Oh, and Zootopia. And Kung Fu Panda 3. Geez, this movie has a lot to live up to.
We meet Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a koala who owns a theatre that is on its last legs, with the bank and unpaid crew beating down his doors. His last chance to save it is a singing competition, so he begins recruiting animals from around town that might stand a chance, to put on one huge show and raise enough money to save the theater. We’ve got his assistant, an elderly lizard (voiced by director Garth Jennings), and his best friend, a rich sheep who has been helping him to pay for all of this (John C. Reilly).
The competitors include a stay-at-home pig (Reese Witherspoon) who is paired with a German dancing pig (Nick Kroll), an angsty teenage porcupine (Scarlett Johansson), a jazzy mouse who is in a bit of trouble with the mob (Seth MacFarlane), a shy elephant who is afraid to sing (Tori Kelly), and an ape who rebels against his father in order to take a risk in this competition (Taron Egerton).
This is, at its heart, a kids movie. In its opening moments, this is very apparent when the movie relies on characters hitting themselves or falling through things or even an ox with uncontrollable flatulence. The kids were howling though, loving every minute. So if you’re looking for a movie to take your kids to, while they’re out of school for the break, this is a very safe choice.
The music is also really fun, tons of hits that you’ll know and love. There’s a downside here though. These songs are often relegated to montages, so you’ll hear just a snippet of a song that could’ve been an entire single. They don’t give you enough. In the climax, we get some solid performances but it didn’t feel like enough, when other musicals like Trolls and Moana gave us entire songs that we were anxious to go home and listen to again.
The standout performance here is Taron Egerton as Johnny the Ape. Egerton is really proving something, coming off Kingsman: The Secret Service and Eddie the Eagle, both surprisingly good movies. He covers a few songs and they’re incredible, but again, it’s shortened to a 10 second highlight, when an entire song would’ve undoubtedly sold well on its own.
The other voice actors are fine but we expect them to be fine. Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Matthew McConaughey… These are all seasoned pros by now, so they deliver, but not much beyond that.
What doesn’t work?
This movie isn’t offensively bad. It’s good. It’s fine. But when I score movies, I think about how they fit in their genre and this year has really tipped the curve for animated movies.
Sing didn’t have the heart that I expected. I teared up a bit, sure, but the climax and the musical numbers that our heroes have been preparing for, fell a bit flat. It was fine, just not very impressive compared to other films that have set a really high bar.
There also was a lack of jokes appealing to anyone over the age of maybe 8 or 9. Plenty of falling and crashing and farting but this movie didn’t really do anything clever. Its core plot is really the same as The Muppets (“We need to raise money to save the theater by recruiting an odd assortment of characters that will somehow pull it off!”). The jokes just didn’t land most of the time and there wasn’t much for adults to appreciate.
This movie is fine. A 3-star rating in my book is average. It’s not bad (I should really be giving out more 3-star ratings). Sing does a decent job, with a somewhat predictable plot and fine performances from an all-star cast. Its songs are great but are hurried past, and when they are given time, those songs happen to not always succeed. It’s a very mixed bag, though if you have kids, they’ll love this and I’m sure you’ll find a thing or two that you’ll enjoy as well.