Animals with big dreams put all their hopes on a singing competition in Sing, a fun mixtape with an OK animated movie around it.
Theater-owning koala Buster Moon (voice of Matthew McConaughey) is behind on paying the mortgage and some of the paychecks at his grand but crumbling theater. He attempts to re-energize the place with a singing competition, with the winning prize set at $1,000. Or it would have been had an accident not caused his assistant, Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings), to add two extra 0s. Buster is shocked when he sees the crowds that turn out and even more shocked when he realizes he has to come up with an extra $99,000.
The competition comes at just the right time for several hopeful animals. Johnny (Taron Egerton) is pushed by his dad (Peter Serafinowicz) to take a bigger part in his bank-robbing crew, but Johnny, a gorilla, is more interested in crooning love songs than standing lookout. Also a crooner, though far more mercenary about his craft, is Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a mouse on the make who could give Frank Sinatra a run for his money.
Meena (Tori Kelly), a shy elephant, has a voice made for the spotlight, but despite her family’s encouragement she has a hard time showing off in front of a crowd. Ash (Scarlett Johansson) is a guitar-playing punk-rock porcupine whose bandmate boyfriend hogs credit and limelight but she’s the one with the talent. And then there’s Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a suburban pig mom with 25 piglets and a pile of laundry, dishes and lunch-packing to do — and a burning desire to really belt out the Katy Perry songs.
These animals all come together to prepare for the show, with Buster trying to stay one step ahead of the bank in hopes that his competition will do big business at the box office and save the theater.
My feelings about Sing are actually very similar to my feelings about Seth MacFarlane — shrug, but wow, that’s some voice! I’m generally not up for more than five or so minutes of any given Family Guy and Ted had its moments but, wow, have you ever heard him sing “The Sadder But Wiser Girl”?
The story of this movie is similarly take or leave: one last big show to save the theater, kid born to sing but dad wants him to do something else, shy girl that finds her confidence — sure, OK, that’s all fine. But MacFarlane’s Mike does a really kick-ass “My Way” and an awesome “Let’s Face the Music and Dance.” I didn’t think I ever needed to hear another version of “Hallelujah” but the scene when Tori Kelly sang it was actually pretty good and I rather enjoyed her “Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing.”
This movie is at its best when it highlights its jukebox musical quality.
Despite focusing on cute animals, the story actually feels rather talky for a kids’ movie. There’s way more “this is my dream”-type stuff and subplots about parental disappointment than there are silly antics. I rather loved the subplot about a mom looking to have a moment in the non-dishes-and-groceries-related spotlight (and the payoff to her plotline is very sweet) but that one feels pretty solidly aimed at the driver of the kids seeing this movie, not at the kids themselves.
Sing reminded me a bit of Trolls, which also felt like a rather weak story that got all its energy from its music. For kids old enough to sit through and maybe even enjoy the personal stories of a gambling mouse, a showman koala, a pig in need of daycare and a shy elephant, the songs and the overall skill of the vocal work might be enough to make this a more or less enjoyable trip to the theater. B-
Rated PG for some rude humor and mild peril. Directed by Garth Jennings and co-director Christophe Lourdelet and written by Garth Jennings, Sing is an hour and 48 minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures.