Hot Take: Fun, entertaining kid’s stuff. It’s the animated version of Celebrity American Idol you probably never asked for. Illumination will never be mistaken for Pixar.
While Pixar has a knack for tugging on your emotions and delivering an unexpected case of the feels, Illumination finds a way to entertain adults without compromising it’s core audience: Kids! Back to Despicable Me and it’s even more kid friendly spin-off Minions, Illumination makes animated films that are purely for children but adults love them, too. The same thing happened this summer with The Secret Life of Pets. So, it should come as no surprise that Sing has accomplished the same feat as this film appeals to a young intellect but there’s enough familiar voices and fun celebrity karaoke performances that adults don’t mind the escape.
If you need a plot synopsis, imagine if animals lived together and walked and talked much like Disney’s Zootopia earlier this year. However, instead of a complex story of prey and predator living together with prey having an underlying fear that predator may, at some point, attack them, Sing delivers a more simple story. A fledgling theater owner — a koala named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) — decides to put on a show featuring local talent singing pop hits. If the concept seems familiar, that’s good. It’s basically American Idol.
Once we get to tryouts, we meet a cast of anthropomorphic characters with great singing voices. There’s Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a pig who is a housewife and mother to 25 piglets. There’s Mike (Seth McFarlane) who is a mouse and street musician with a major attitude and an aptitude for singing standards. Johnny (Taron Egerton) is a gorilla who is the son of a mobster but can’t focus on his life of crime due to aspirations of being a pop singer. Ash (Scarlett Johansson) is a teenage porcupine with as much attitude as singing and writing talent. Finally, there’s Meena (Tori Kelly), a shy elephant who has an amazing voice and an even more incredible case of stage fright.
There are other bit players, too. Buster Moon’s best friend is a sheep named Eddie (John C. Reilly) who doesn’t believe Moon’s talent show will save his theater but has access to the financial resources Moon needs to keep his theater going. Günter (Nick Kroll) becomes Rosita’s piggy partner after Moon decides against putting a giraffe in the show because of a communication barrier. (The giraffe is so tall, he can’t hear anything Moon says.) There’s more, too. However, if every character were discussed, this review might be the longest in recent memory.
Essentially, Moon wants to put on a successful talent show and make enough money to save the theater. His idea of giving away $1,000 becomes $100,000 when his elderly assistant — a green iguana named Karen Crawley (Garth Jennings who is also the writer and director) who also can teach piano — makes a typo. The problem is exacerbated by Crawley printing the flyers and letting them blow out of the window which distributes the unchecked flyer to our potential stars. Once Moon finds out, he’s undaunted and continues on with making the show. He targets Nana Noodleman (Jennifer Saunders) for financial backing. She’s a curmudgeon with very little interest in helping Moon at first but his smooth talk gets her to at least see the rehearsal.
Eventually, things fall apart before they come together. Around here we won’t even spoil kid’s movies despite this film’s high level of predictability so we can’t go any further with the synopsis. There is plenty of singing and animated dancing, though. The movie features at least parts of over 60 classic songs and a few originals. One of the originals — “Faith” by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande — was nominated for a Golden Globe and the film itself was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, also.
Even though the film makes very few attempts to appeal to an older audience, it manages to be entertaining enough to overcome it’s juvenile approach. Sing is a good example of a film that is what it is, take it or leave it. If you’re looking for a movie filled with actors and actresses performing pop hits and the occasional silly animated scene, Sing should be right up your alley. It’s hard to hate the end result because, worst case scenario, you’ll be singing the songs long after you leave the theater.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- So Many Characters
Beyond the main characters, there are so many other characters that are fun and humorous. There’s a group of tail shaking bunnies who we see singing the opening lines to Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back.” Leslie Jones and Jay Pharoah voice Meena’s mother and grandfather. Jennifer Hudson provides the powerful singing voice of young Nana Noodleman. It’s a plethora of characters and each one entertains.
- Tori Kelly
Kelly started as a YouTube sensation at the age of 14. Her YouTube success spawned a few hit albums and now the 24 year old singer is the incredible voice of an animated elephant. She’s the one member of Buster’s talent show who isn’t an actor or actress first and it shows in her singing voice.
- Time Flies When You’re Having Fun
The film is almost 2 hours but it rarely feels like it as its brisk pace and frequent music interludes have time flying by.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- The Kid’s Menu
One thing Pixar has always done is find a way to tell a story to kids while also appealing to adults. Fortunately and unfortunately, Illumination has yet to find that talent and may never try. They know their core audience (KIDS!) and they know adults with children will tag along (and those adults who refuse to grow up will stop by, too) for the show.
Even though the story is aimed at kids, there could have been an unexpected twist or turn. However, Sing’s paint-by-numbers plot does little to challenge your brain.