How does one broach a review of an animated children’s movie? If the main and only criteria were “does it entertain children?”, then virtually every film in the genre would get an automatic pass. A deeper look then should be warranted, but with the aforementioned still in the back of the mind. Thankfully in the last 2 decades this task has been make all the easier, with studios like Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks Animation understanding that their films are a family affair, and making their products more well rounded as a result.
So where does this put Illumination’s Sing? Unfortunately, it’s left in the middle of a crowded street, trying to belt out at the top of its lungs for attention.
To get it out of the way, kids will eat the film up, much in the same way they did with Illumination’s other release earlier this year, The Secret Life of Pets. It very much caters to the same audience, and shares a few of the shortcoming. The story follows Buster Moon (an entertainingly energetic Matthew McConaughey) a koala who runs a failing theater house and is deep deep into debt with the bank. He pitches his latest idea of a local singing competition to his best friend, a sheep named Eddie (an underutilized John C Reilly), whose father has helped finance Buster’s past ventures. Turned down, but not deterred, Buster moves forward with the plans for his show. He is greeted by an overwhelming number of entrants, due to a clerical error that states a grand prize of $100,000, when Buster has just under one thousand to offer up.
After a rapid fire (and that usage isn’t hyperbole) montage of what felt like 30 songs – the director states 85 hit songs are in the film – we settle on the motley crew of finalists. Rosita (Resse Witherspoon) is an overworked, overstressed and put upon housewife, and pig, who is in desperate need of appreciation, or at the very least some time of her own. Johnny (Taron Egerton), a gorilla, is destined for a life of crime, but wants nothing more than to be a singer, and his dad to accept him. Ash the porcupine (Scarlett Johansson) gets dumped by her boyfriend due to her getting into the contest and needs an outlet for expression. Meena is the elephant in the room, overly shy, but possesses a powerful voice, that is just aching for an opportunity to show the world she can shine. Last is Mike the mouse, and as voiced by Seth McFarlane is the best entry point for the flaws the film is littered with.
Most of what is on display during Sing could have easily been enjoyed years ago, but with many studios trying to elevate their craft, the film more so resembles the failed efforts Buster has put on in the part. At least they can take heart in knowing that if the box office take doesn’t cover the budget, the soundtrack sales will.