There are things in life impossible to dislike: Mary Poppins, Bryan Cranston, funny videos of dogs and now you can add Matthew McConaughey singing Carly Rae Jepson’s “Call me Maybe” to that list. It’s a moment that captures the breezy, upbeat, easy going nature of Illumination Entertainment’s latest offering – Sing.
Following in the footsteps of Disney’s Zootropolis/Zootopia, Garth Jennings (Son of Rambow) has produced what in many ways feels like a thematic sequel. It isn’t of course but the whole prospect of a city populated by anthropomorphic animals means that Zootropolis will always be in your mind.
Which is a shame because Zootropolis is one of the finest animated films ever made and the formulaic nature of Sing’s plot means it will never live up to that level.
Nevertheless, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that this animated musical is fantastic fun which, like La La Land harks back to the Golden Age of the Hollywood Musical. Moreover, it’s the X Factor with animals, and without the proclivity to cut our intellectual throat and drink the still warm blood. Sing has a heart of gold, its head in the clouds and its makes for some great family fun.
The story follows Koala Bear and theatre owner Buster Moon (McConaughey), who decides to hold s singing competition to keep his theatre alive and avoid financial ruin. The contestants are a crooning arrogant mouse (Seth McFarlane); a teenage porcupine punk (Scarlett Johansson); Johnny the Gorilla (Taron Egerton); a shy, young elephant (Tori Kelly) and a duo of pigs (Reese Witherspoon and Nick Kroll) who definitely aren’t Pinky and Perky.
For all its bright animation and its relentless, loud assault of well-known pop songs Sing is a very old fashioned film. All of our protagonists are solidly constructed with their own demons to battle and insecurities to overcome. Who knew that taking sometime to build your characters is successful eh?
Illumination’s release from last year, The Secret Life of Pets never broke out beyond being average because beyond a few jokes about the quirks of animals we’ve already seen on youtube it didn’t have much substance. Sing doesn’t have that problem. The plot maybe more than a little formulaic but within this format formulaic is absolutely the right way to go. It keeps things simple, it doesn’t become a parody of itself or disappear up its own backside.
The ensemble voice cast are superb and offer a bit of heft to the characters and delivering some impressive singing chops too. McConaughey is perfect as the hustler looking for a big break while avoiding complete ruin. However, Nick Kroll steals the show as happy-go-lucky, lycra loving pig, Gunther, with his adorable accent which could hail from anywhere in Central Europe.
The set pieces at the film’s conclusion which essentially reels off as the most random greatest hits compilation album shouldn’t work. Simply slapping together a few songs doesn’t make a great soundtrack as those of us who had to witness Suicide Squad can testify. Thankfully, the groundwork beforehand pays off a treat, teasing us with snippets of songs before the full show at the end, when you care about the characters enough for it all to hang together.
Like the best family films, there is plenty of simple, superb slapstick and cute animation for the kids and more than enough in there for the adults to smile and belly laugh – although not as much as I did with Minions.
Sing is not the bete noir for animated films to break through the pig-headed, patronizing judging panels of awards season but who the f**k cares?! Its terrifically enjoyable enough for repeat viewing. Sit back, relax and enjoy the show until Despicable Me 3 comes along.