Sing – Movie Review
Rating: B (Good)
Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures
Illumination Entertainment is a solid animation studio, one with an emphasis on cute characters and high-energy comic situations. Producer Christopher Meledandri and directors Chris Renaud and Pierre Coffin have crafted a familiar look and sensibility for their films. Bringing in fresh talent is a good way to spice things up and hiring director/writer Garth Jennings for his animated feature debut is a nice place to start. Sing still doesn’t inspire more than a “that was cute” reaction, but it is a step in the right direction for the young studio. It certainly succeeds at its primary toe-tapping goal.
By focusing the story on an ensemble of characters, Jennings has the challenge of trying to divide time between the many animals that populate the cast. Buster Moon, the koala owner of the theatre running the singing competition, is given the most development and screen time. However, this is not at the expense of everyone else. Jennings is able to showcase everyone, their dilemmas and their talents with nobody being overshadowed. Moon ends up being the most sympathetic with his want to bring the theatre back to prominence, but Rosita the pig feels the most true to life in the film’s depiction of her trying to raise her family of many piglets. It all makes her drive to want to perform in the show even more powerful.
The other singing animals manage to form their own distinct personalities and story arcs, too, including a rock star porcupine trying to be independent, a gorilla with no interest in his father’s criminal activities and an elephant with stage fright. There’s not even an attempt to make all of them sympathetic as Mike, a Frank Sinatra-inspired mouse voiced with the familiar Big Band pipes of Seth MacFarlane, is not likely to get on many audience’s good sides. That keeps Sing from overstaying its welcome even as it inches towards the almost two hour mark. Character and production designer Eric Guillon deserves particular credit for making sure this world and its inhabitants feel distinct, lessening comparisons to Disney’s Zootopia from earlier this year.
The highlights of Sing are unsurprisingly the musical numbers. The cost of acquiring the music rights must have been astronomical, but they’re worth it upon seeing what Jennings and the animators have crafted. They have an energetic quality to them and range from small comedic bits to full-on choreographed sequences. All of the songs fit seamlessly with the characters and feel selected not due to their chart-topping success, but rather to enhance what the animals want to accomplish. It all culminates in the rousing final act with Jennings pulling out all of the stops for the big show.
Sing certainly sticks to a predictable formula, coming across like a mix between Pitch Perfect and Cats Don’t Dance. However, there is an instant likeability to the entire project and the ensemble nature of the piece is refreshing to see in an animated feature. Sing also knows how to use its all-star cast with Matthew McConaughey putting plenty of his relaxed energy into Buster. This doesn’t break too much from Illumination’s tendency towards cuteness over thematic depth, but it nonetheless proves to be their best film to date. It’s a fitting film for the Christmas season and one imagines its soundtrack album will be in many stockings over the holidays.
About Stefan Ellison
Stefan Ellison has had a passion for cinema since an early age. A graduate of York University, he likes creating stories just as much as writing movie reviews. For the past number of years, he has also become a viral video distributor, exploring the bold and exciting world of the online new media revolution. Stefan is also an enthusiast in the art of animation, constantly researching the historical aspects of the medium, whether it involves finding out who animated Mickey Mouse or what type of plasticine was used for Wallace & Gromit.
Regardless of whether a film was made to win awards or throw explosions at the screen, Stefan will watch it.