Did you ever watch the trailer to a film and know that it was going to be bad before it had even hit the cinema? I felt that way when I first saw the trailer for Sing – I remember inadvertently commenting out loud in the middle of a packed cinema ‘that looks crap.’ Well, now I’ve seen it, and I’m saddened to say that my judgement was spot-on. For what it is, it’s okay – sadly, what it is is an average animated musical that you’ll forget almost as soon as it’s finished.
Dapper koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) presides over a once-grand theatre that has fallen on hard times and is faced with closure. Forever an optimist, and a bit of a chancer, Moon loves his theatre and will do anything he can to preserve it. Facing the end of his life’s ambition, he comes up with one final idea to save the theatre and restore it to its former glory – the world’s greatest singing competition. Five contestants emerge – a mouse, a timid elephant, a pig, a gorilla and a punk-rock porcupine – but the show is faced with all manner of setbacks before the big day.
Let’s start positive – the vocal performances are really where the film shines. The highlight is McConaughey as Buster Moon, whose voice manages to channel both the character’s cheery optimism and desperation, and who gets most of the film’s few laughs. All the stars did their own singing, which works out nicely in the case of Johansson, who can nicely knock out a tune. It works less successfully in the case of Witherspoon (the film clearly gave her a partner just to make up for her vocal shortfall) or MacFarlane (I get it, he can do Sinatra, but he isn’t as impressive pulling a voice that can best be described as ‘Peter Griffin but less so’).
I have to pour some scorn on the singing, and the very premise of the picture itself, because it just doesn’t work too well. I was raised on quality Disney animated musicals but, even if that’s not the case for you, you’d struggle to argue that kids don’t deserve better than Sing – mostly second-rate covers of average pop songs.
The story also falls prey to the typical talent show cliché – in order to get the viewer to connect with the characters, we get a quick amount of back-story and a shot of them looking sad as they struggle along the way. Here’s the issue – there are quite a number of characters, and these surface sketches, whilst sufficient to outline the characters, do not get any further than that. This is a movie hoping the viewer will fill in blanks it can’t be bothered to do and, coupled with the fact that every plotline is pretty much resolved in the same way, it’s a bit of a lazy job.
There are funny moments along the way – Moon’s unbridled enthusiasm and attitude towards his stars generates a few laughs, and there is a wonderfully daft car wash sequence that made me chuckle a fair bit – but the bulk of the humour is aimed at the younger members of the audience. Go in over the age of 12, and it’s all stuff you’ve seen before and seen done better at that.
I came out of the film wondering who it really supposed to be for – I can see some kids enjoying some of the more slapstick laughs, but that’s about it. Sing serves to merge two genres that are both incredibly popular – the animated film and the talent show – and yet comes out with something that doesn’t quite gel. It tries to tug its viewer’s heartstrings as the best animated films do, but instead comes across as shallow, manipulative and desperate as the talent shows it apes.
Director: Christophe Lourdlet, Garth Jennings
Cast: Matthew McConaughey (Buster Moon), Reese Witherspoon (Rosita), Seth MacFarlane (Mike), Scarlett Johansson (Ash), John C. Reilly (Eddie), Taron Egerton (Johnny)
Running Time: 108 Mins
Image credit: https://www.flickreel.com/sing-review/