‘Sing’ is not a bad way to pass a couple of hours
Published: Jan 06, 2017
Sing (Rated B)
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson
Genre: Animated Musical Comedy
It can admittedly get a little heavy in theaters in December.
Between all the Oscar-bait movies examining often dark and depressing social issues and family crises, and the giant blockbusters with their alien and space themes, sometimes you just need to lighten things up.
The new animated musical comedy “Sing” may be a little too light, though. But beside the animated musical “Moana”, “Sing” is the only comedy in local theaters right now, and — unusual for this time of year — these two ’toons may be the only current flicks suitable for young children.
Being animated and a musical will make this a hard sell for many, but if you’re looking for innocuous entertainment, there are slim pickings these days. Thankfully “Sing” is, for the most part, breezy, amusing and fun.
Like last March’s critical-darling and massive-blockbuster “Zootopia”, “Sing” focuses on anthropomorphic animated animals. Providing voices for these characters is an all-star cast starring Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton Jennifer Hudson, John C. Reilly and many more.
It’s got many musical numbers featuring some recent and past pop hits, mostly performed by the cast. Plus, there’s an all-new song called “Faith” sung by the legendary Stevie Wonder and pop-princess Ariana Grande.
McConaughey voices the character Buster Moon, a dapper koala that 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 (MacFarlane), a timid elephant (Tori Kelly), a pig (Witherspoon), a gorilla (Egerton) and a punk-rock porcupine (Johansson).
That plot is just another example of the starkly different approach “Sing” producer Illumination Entertainment (also the maker of “Despicable Me” and “The Secret Life of Pets”) takes to animated cinema, when compared to industry leader Disney and its subsidiaries, Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar. Disney continued to delve into some meaty issues in 2016, like racism and prejudice in “Zootopia”, and environmental responsibility and conservation in “Moana”.
Interestingly, other than featuring talking and dancing animals, one wonders whether “Sing” really needed to be animated at all, even if it is vividly drawn and colored. With all the various backstories for these many characters, the film feels like a cartoon version of the musical “Pitch Perfect” or that overstuffed-with-stars romantic comedy “Valentine’s Day”. The “putting on a show” theme is also reminiscent of “The Muppets”.
Perhaps the best way to describe it is as the cinematic equivalent to an episode of TV’s “Glee”. That’s not so bad – in its first few seasons, it was a fine show! And if you love the songs featured in “Sing”, you’ll likely have a good time. But again, it won’t be for everyone, and many will feel it’s gimmicky.
Others seem to appreciate the light approach here. “Sing” has been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film for this Sunday’s Golden Globe Awards (competing with “Kubo and the Two Strings”, “Moana”, “My Life as a Zucchini” and “Zootopia). In fact, the Globes snubbed record-shattering “Finding Dory 2” (2016’s second highest-grossing film and highest grossing animated film worldwide).
I think the Globes got it right. For adults, “Sing” is more entertaining than the deja-vu “Dory” redux, and much more enjoyable than the more-meaningful and more lavishly produced “Moana”. However, it’s nowhere near the all-around excellence of “Zootopia”.
But for an amusing, non-heavyweight time in what’s still essentially the holiday season, “Sing” is not a bad way to pass a couple of hours.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio. He is a television producer and writer and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter@morningblend969.