An A-list cast voices a crew of all-singing animals in this animated X Factor parody.
The studio behind Despicable Me clearly had a film like Zootropolis in mind when they conceived Sing.Zootropolis, Disney's Academy Award-nominated animated parable about the dangers of prejudice and institutionalised racism was rightly lauded as a great example of a children’s film with a bit of substance. It was cute, it was clever, it was funny, it was profound. Sing is no Zootropolis. It is however nice, if a little formulaicSing also features a veritable who’s-who of stars who provide voices for a motley crew of various anthropomorphic animals who sing and dance. It’s not ground-breaking, but it’s an entertaining couple of hours for the family to sit back, have a few chuckles and hear some old favourite tunes belted out with gusto.
Matthew McConaughey is Buster Moon, a koala (more on this later) who runs a failing theatre that’s about to be repossessed, and who dreams of the grand old days of the stage. To save his beloved theatre, Buster devises a singing competition to bring in the punters and restore his former glory. A minor office mishap means the show ends up much bigger than he could have ever imagined, and attracts a whole heap of cleverly animated animals to audition.
Among them are the eventual stars – gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton), elephant Meena (Tori Kelly), mouse Mike (Seth McFarlane), porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson) and pigs Gunter (Nick Kroll) and Rosita (Reese Witherspoon). Much like any given season of The X Factor, each auditionee has a unique story behind their quest for fame and success, with some more dubious than others. The film’s plot, though simple, still doesn’t quite find the time to give half the characters satisfactory backstories, and so even the big finish feels a little thin.
It’s a really nicely animated film – Gunter the dancing pig is a particular highlight – and the scale of the animation is genuinely impressive. There’s a scene towards the end of the film that shows a time-lapse of a building project that’s really excellent, and all the animals are perfectly created on-screen. It’s off-screen that there’s a bit of an odd quality to them; McConaughey as a koala is a weird one, as is Johansson as a porcupine, and none more so than Witherspoon as Rosita the pig. Rosita’s is one of the only backstories that’s really got any substance to it; she’s a sty-at-home mum (I will not apologise for such a crackling pork pun) who has pushed her dreams aside to support her dreary husband and her 25 piglets. It’s a nice little tail (I cannot stop), and it’s little moments like that that gives Sing it’s heart.
It’s an entertaining couple of hours for the family to sit back, have a few chuckles and hear some tunes
And there is a lot of heart – it’s powered massively by the soundtrack, which features bop-along hits like Shake it Off, Call Me Maybe, I’m Still Standing and My Way. The singing is great, and the choice of songs is, by and large, excellent. The animation is impressive too, and the array of animals (kudos to whoever decided to include a porcupine) is a break from the norm. So the audio’s there, and the visuals are entertaining, but it’s still not as clever as Zootropolis, or as memorable as Inside Out or as raucous as a Minion Movie or The Secret Life of Pets. It’s an okay animated movie, but the problem is that it’s part kid’s film and part half-hearted and too-late satire on shows like The X Factor.
Sing is entertaining, but quite a lot of that comes from the favourites on the soundtrack, rather than any great moments in the script. A lot of the voice cast feels miscast and underused – with the exception of McFarlane as Mike the mouse, who’s given an absurdly prominent role for a completely obnoxious character who sinks so low as to fat-shame the dancing pigs. So yeah, it’s a weird film that’s both amusing and confusing, entertaining and familiar. It’s a great concept for an animation, and yet it feels like it should have been made 5 years ago, and perhaps had a bit more thought put into the script.
Compared to some of the really great ‘kids’ films we’ve seen recently, Sing hits a bit of a flat note. Animated films have become much more than a colourful cartoon with a few gags – the really great ones nowadays have got complex characters, underlying themes and serious messages as well as some killer animation going on. Sing has some amusing characters, a cracking soundtrack and an impressive cast, and it’ll help pass a couple of hours for the family in the multiplex. But it’s not a masterpiece, and it’s not one that’ll strike a chord for years to come.
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