Familiar Song (Sing Review)

Dapper Koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. An eternal optimist, and a bit of a scoundrel, he loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Facing the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he takes one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

Five contestants emerge: a mouse named Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a timid elephant named Meena (Tori Kelly), a pig named Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a gorilla named Johnny (Taron Egerton) and a punk-rock porcupine named Ash (Scarlett Johansson).

If you thought we were done with animated talking animal films, then you thought wrong. After Zootopia and The Secret Life of Pets, here’s Sing, another film from the same studio behind the latter, Illumination Entertainment. This one should not come as much of a surprise, however, as this film is hinted at via an Easter Egg in The Secret Life of Pets (for a video containing that and the other Easter Eggs from the film, click here). The voice cast it boasts which not many animated films can claim.

The story may not be the most original but that almost doesn’t matter when it comes to animated kids films. As long as it’s entertaining, that is what most people will remember. The film does boast an impressive cast which can be good but that also means a surplus of characters. That also could be okay but the film has to give them enough character development for us to connect to them. The film fails at this, however, as it chooses to abruptly jump between them until they inevitably come together for the singing competition.

As a result, some characters fared better than others. While characters each filled standard roles, their personal stories weren’t particularly original. A few characters did stand out above the others, primarily Meena, the shy, talented, elephant, and Johnny, the young gorilla who wants to make his own life. The other characters all had their own subplots but they weren’t particularly compelling due to their underdeveloped nature. This made them lack any real impact.

This made the film less fun to watch at times, as it would cut between the group scenes and their individual subplots. The fact that the story wasn’t original made it predictable which made these inferior characters even less compelling. They all wanted the prize money for one reason or another as it would be a benefit to them and their lives. The odd thing was that a film that seemed to be about Buster at first became more about the other characters, making his story less impactful.

Individual shortcomings aside, the best part of the film has to be the chemistry between the characters. They were definitely fun to watch together as the film got better whenever multiple characters were involved. Beit Buster with his assistant Miss Crawly (the film’s director, Garth Jennings) and his friend Eddie (John C. Reilly), or Rosita and her flamboyant pig partner Gunter (Nick Kroll), or Meena and her family (Jay Pharoah and Leslie Jones), they were plenty of fun moments to be had.

Of course a film called Sing would have singing in it. For the most part, the singing was surprisingly well done. The songs were mostly covers except for a few original songs including the Golden Globe nominated “Faith” (below). Because it was a show, Buster would try to dress up the performances by offering some helpful performance suggestions and provide artistic direction which helped to improve some of the performances. Unfortunately, the film’s lack of character development was caused by its focus on the music and singing. If the film had more of a balance between the two, then both would benefit.

The voice acting was excellent all around which was not much of a surprise considering who was involved. Each of the actors’ personalities helped bring each of the characters to life, making them likeable, and elevating the rather unoriginal story. (spoiler alert) McConaughey doesn’t sing but other actors do and they did it surprisingly well with Witherspoon, Johansson, and Egerton standing out. The animation was great as well featuring color and detail, especially in the environments and the different animals.

Overall, this was a good animated musical film with excellent performances that elevate its unoriginal story.

Score: 8/10

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