Review: ‘Sing’ Aims For Lowest Common Denominator And Still Fails
Director: Christopher Lourdelet and Garth Jennings
Summary: A koala named Buster Moon has one final chance to restore his theater to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.
If the box office and television ratings are any indication there are two things that people love; talking animals and singing competitions. After American Idol kicked off the craze it was like a million different versions of the same show popped up all over the place. It appears that the fad has died down with The Voice reigning supreme mostly (unless it’s Eurovision then that takes the cake hands down) but the show is still on. It is still considered a flagship property. Zootopia and Finding Dory collectively brought in over two billion dollars so audiences care about talking animals, too. Now Illumination, the studio behind the Minions movies, has stepped in to blend those two things together to try and print money the way the Minions has.
Sing is mediocre film at best that the target audience will love, but in a year with so many animation classics it doesn’t stand out.
If there is a cliche that exists somewhere in either the competition or talent show genre then Sing is willing to take advantage of it. That kind of storytelling can work and while this isn’t a full blown musical there are musical cues and those arch characters are part of the package. The music is supposed to make up for the arch characters but none of the characters in Sing are interesting. The shy girl, the boy trying to escape his father, the housewife that dreams big; we know all of these stories and we know how all of them end. The only difference here is that those cliches are all animals so that’s supposed to make it cute. It isn’t cute, though, and it makes everything incredibly boring. The music in a movie about music should be central to the characters and help them through their story, but these songs are just what is on every karaoke or open mic night. When the shy elephant starts singing ‘Hallelujah’ you have to wonder why it took this long.
The movie doesn’t even bother doing anything really interesting with the fact that these are animals. Unlike Zootopia that played with the idea of a world inhabited by animals would change and the little things like transportation or even doorways would have to adapt is what made that world so immersive. With Sing there is every indication that this could have been done in live action and nothing would have changed. I suppose making the elephant the shy one and the horse the one with the big personality and the swindler, but that’s symbolism on the level of a third grader. The idea that kids wouldn’t be able to understand something deeper is insulting to them; they are so much smarter than we give them credit for.
The real question is ‘can the actors that are singing actually sing?’ because strong voices are important in musicals (see review for La La Land). To the relief of people who get annoyed when something is off key the people in Sing can indeed sing. Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Seth MacFarlane and American Idol alumni Tori Kelly all round out the cast of very strong singers. When all of them get their ‘end of movie’ performances they go all out but, again, they aren’t very interesting. These are all songs we all know because they are on the pop charts and that is why they were chosen. They don’t enhance the characters aside from letting them all get a chance to perform.
Sing has arrived on the scene a few years too late. Perhaps if it was around when there were more competitions it would be better but, right now, it feels dated. This is a movie that is trying to compete with the likes of Kubo and the Two Strings, Finding Dory and Zootopia. When that is your competition you need to step it up and Sing is more happy mass appeal rather than challenging their young audience.