As Kubo and The Two Strings twanged our heartstrings and lit up our soul and while Zootropolis inspired us to aim high and break down prejudicial barriers, it is easy to overlook films that look a like pretty standard animated fare. As animation in cinema keeps advancing we should never allow ourselves to become cine-snobs who look down on anything that seems to be “just fun” because in doing so we can often miss something of value or something rather unexpectedly sweet and enjoyable. Such is the case for the new film from Illumination Entertainment (of Despicable Me series fame), which is certainly not the film you expect it to be...it’s better.
The film sees ambitious but struggling old school theatre owner (and Koala) Buster (Matthew McConaughey), who aims to dig himself out of various troubles and give his theatre the prestige it deserves by hosting a singing contest show. However when a typo adds a couple of 0’s to the modest cash prize he’s offering and when the contestants gain attention (some for the wrong reasons), the pressure is on, and this may be one gamble too many for the aspirational Buster. Promoted by the adverts as an ‘X-Factor with animals’ kids film, this knee-jerk synopsis does an injustice to a family film that offers a great deal more than a reality show inspired family flick.
Sing is a thoroughly enjoyable animated movie that uses its concept to far greater effect than Illumination Entertainment’s The Secret Life Of Pets did last year, as it zips along with giddy energy and crowd pleasing warmth throughout. The plot itself is hardly original and does certainly go the expected route towards the end but as opposed to being a reality show concept, Sing is instead a film far more comparable to James Bobin’s The Muppets (2011). The story is indeed about a singing competition initially -but like The Muppets- unfolds into a film about saving tradition and ensuring the survival of the old school by marrying it with new trends - as Buster’s theatre is indicative of the many real-life playhouses, cinemas and galleries in this world that are forced into closure. As well as these ideas, Sing discusses notions of how money is important but not as important as doing what you love because you love it.
It is a nice core, wrapped inside a visually pleasant (if not quite as polished as the likes of Pixar) and passionately voiced film that is full of songs (most that are actually pretty darn good - again, unlike most “talent” shows) and goodwill. McConaughey leads an all star cast and is probably the best performer as Buster but also standing out are Reese Witherspoon as devoted wife/mother Pig Rosita, Seth MacFarlane as the cocky/streetsmart Sinatra-esque mouse Mike, Tori Kelly as nervy but talented elephant Meena and Taron Egerton as Gorilla Johnny (and Egerton’s rendition of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” alone shows up the supposed Cowell pop “prodigies” manufactured on these tuneless shows). Though, for this writer, the scene stealer was Buster’s aged but loyal glass-eyed lizard secretary Ms. Crawley (voiced by director Garth Jennings himself).
Musically, narratively, vocally and visually, Sing is entertaining for the whole family and while some aspects of the script don’t click as brilliantly as others, this is still far superior to the low expectations this writer went in with. It may not be a game changer but it is memorably fun and something you can quite easily and happily re-visit. Sometimes all we need is a sweet film, with nice characters and lots of fun and that is what we get here, a film all about enjoying yourself. As well as one that teaches kids about the vitality that comes with doing what they love and cherishing the dazzling atmosphere that can still be offered by the old school. Underestimate it at your peril, Sing is a heck of a lot of fun for cinemagoers of all ages.
SING / CERT: U / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: GARTH JENNINGS / STARRING: MATTHEW MCCONAUGHEY, REESE WITHERSPOON, SETH MCFARLANE, TORI KELLY, SCARLETT JOHANSSON, TARON EGERTON, NICK KROLL / RELEASE DATE: 27TH JANUARY
Expected Rating: 4/10