Sing might suffer from a case of too high expectations. And not just because the film was made by Illumination Entertainment, the people who brought us Despicable Me. It was also because the trailer promise a madcap version of American Idol with animals. What we got was a “let’s put on a show to save the theater” film and a rather predictable one at that.
The film focuses on Buster, a koala voiced by Matthew McConaughey, who is living his life long dream of being a theater owner. However, his shows have left him cash poor, with the stage hands and bank calling him for money he owes them. He has one last plan to save his theater–a talent competition. Unfortunately, a clerical error changes the contest purse from $1,000 to $100,000, a mistake that Buster doesn’t discover until after auditions were held. With an all-star collection of undiscovered talent in his show, Buster tries to keep the contestants in the dark, all the while trying to raise the money needs to award them.
The trailer makes it seem that we will have a long and funny audition process. We don’t because it quickly winds down to a handful of contestants. Stop me if this gets repetitive.
- Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a put-upon pig whose musical talent is overlooked by her oblivious husband and family.
- Johnny (Taron Egerton), a put-upon gorilla whose musical talent is overlooked by his oblivious father and his father’s hoodlum friends.
- Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a put-upon porcupine whose musical talent is overlooked by her oblivious boyfriend and bandmate, Lance (Beck Bennett).
- Meena (Tori Kelly), a put-upon elephant who, in a change of pace, has a family that approves and appreciates her musical talent but she is way too shy to act on it.
- Oh, and Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a crooning white mouse who is one of the most repellent characters to ever appear in a film, period. The character has little to no redeeming values and doesn’t get any as the film moves on. I hated Mike with the heat of 1,000 burning suns. He sticks out in the film like an infected blister.
All the above, except for Mike, get a character arc, many of which were spoiled in the various trailers for the film. Not mentioned was Gunther (Nick Kroll), the “Piggy Powah!” pig from the commercials, who isn’t given a backstory or much more to do in the film than to be Rosita’s cheerleader.
Yet, even with its many faults, the film is not without its charms. The cast is first rate. We have a great bunch of actors who are also talented singers. Lest we forget, Witherspoon did her own singing in Walk the Line and MacFarlane and Johansson have put out albums of their music. The surprises, for me are Egerton, who impresses as a Sam Smith-like belter, and Tori Kelly, a recording artist who impresses with her voice acting here.
The voice cast also includes Jennifer Saunders, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Hudson, Jay Pharoah, Leslie Jones, Peter Serafinowicz, Rhea Perlman and Nick Offerman in supporting roles. Animation voice-acting legends Rob Paulsen, Lorraine Newman, Jess Harnell, Tara Strong, Jim Cummings and Carlos Alazraqui join directors Chris Renaud, Wes Anderson (!) and Edgar Wright (!!) as additional voices. With a talent pool that deep, it’s hard for me to hate this film completely.
Writer/Director Garth Jennings shows flourishes of brilliance in his directing (the opening scene introducing us to the characters is first rate) and writing (he does manage to throw some surprises at us, plot wise). And the character designs are spot on and well done.
The bottom line is that your kids should love it, but your mileage may vary. You’ll either mildly like it or absolutely hate it, depending on how much predictability annoys you.