Matthew McConaughey voices Buster Moon, a koala bear who owns the local theater and is doing what he can to return it to a state of profitability and respect. Reese Witherspoon is a pig housewife who loves her family but often feels unappreciated. Seth MacFarlaine voices Mike, a classically trained arrogant mouse who could use some lessons in humility. Scarlett Johannson is Ash, a teenage porcupine in a band with her boyfriend who disrespects her. John C. Reilly is Eddie, Buster’s closest friend who wants to make an identity for himself instead of the one laid out before him by his rich family. Taron Egerton is a gorilla whose father is a bank robber by trade, and Taron doesn’t want to follow in his footsteps. Tori Kelley plays Meena, a shy teenage elephant whose family wants her to realize that she is a talented person who deserves to be noticed. All of these people meet when Buster decides the best way to revive his theater is through a live singing competition in which all these characters take part. Does that sound like a lot? Perhaps too much for a single movie to take on and do justice? It absolutely is.
That isn’t even all the characters, stars, and story lines involved in this incredibly overstuffed animated feature which at its heart is really just an excuse for big name stars to sing some pop songs and make an easy paycheck. Sing is the latest from Illumination, the company that has given us the Despicable Me films and The Secret Life of Pets from earlier this year. Much like those films, Sing is an animated film which is fine for children, but nothing more than fine, and can entertain adults well enough that they won’t regret bringing their kids to the theater, but not so well that they don’t realize the entire length of the film they could be doing something much better with their time.
As someone who has been crusading against animation as seen as being purely for children for some time now, I still realize that there is nothing at all wrong with cartoons made with children as the primary audience, however, Sing is a film with an arrogrant crooner, a frazzled housewife with 25 children, bank robbers, and loan sharks as main characters. It’s lessons are practically non-existent except to say such light themes as “you shouldn’t rob banks” or “mom’s can occasionally be cool”. Add to that the fact that much of the humor is aimed squarely at adults, and you have a movie too simple and slight for an adult audience, but with characters and situations children won’t really get, and it’s impossible to tell who this movie is for other than people who just want to watch animals with celebrity voices sing overplayed and slight pop songs.
The animation is bright and colorful, another clue that the primary audience of the film is the younger crowd, and does definitely have a high level of charm. There isn’t much remarkable about the visual style outside of this, however, as it has nowhere near the attention to detail seen in Zootopia, the creativity and artistry of Kubo and the Two Strings, nor the incredible talent on display in Moana. It’s obvious this isn’t the animators first film, but it is still incredibly generic and not particularly memorable.
Sing is a movie that’s hard to recommend as anything other than something to keep your kids busy for a while or as background noise while you work on something which demands more of your attention. There are too many stories going on for any to earn any level of even minor investment, lessons, themes, and allegory are non-existent, the characters are as generic as they can possibly be as is the plot, and the animation is eye catching, but little else. The only thing which will entertain you is the music and the charm, both of which Sing does have in abundance, but while those can be enough to get a smile here and there, it’s not nearly enough to make this a movie worth visiting more than once, and even that once on Netflix or the like.
Rating: 4.0 out of 10