Sing review: C Flat

Chad White

Loves: Animated movies
Likes: Matthew McConaughey, the rest of the cast
Dislikes: Movies based on pop songs, singing competitions
Hates: Those damn minions

When you've reached rock bottom, there's only one way to go, and that's up!

Illumination is one of the stranger animation studios in the movie world. Their start came about thanks to the appeal of the minions and the evil zaniness of the Despicable Me franchise. Without them, Illumination probably wouldn’t have been able to churn out two movies in 2016, just six years after their beginnings (by comparison, it took rivals Pixar 10 years from their 1995 start, Disney [from their 2010 CG start with Tangled], and DreamWorks Animation seven from their 1998 start). With the introduction of Sing, though, Illumination loses its luster that Secret Life of Pets instituted mere months before.

Sing follows koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) as he comes up with a master plan to save his famed but failing theatre. However, a misprint by his elderly iguana confidant, Karen Crawly (Garth Jennings), leads a music competition featuring piggy mom Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), conniving mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane), prickly teenage porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly), and roguish ape Johnny (Taron Egerton). Each character has their own story arc and progression but it’s not much.

The script is muddled and rushed, more so than any other kiddie flick out. Jennings took over many hats including scripting, directing, and producing. His stories involving these animals are diverse but perhaps spread a bit too thin. Johnny’s life is mixed in with Meena’s who’s also blended with Rosita’s. Audiences won’t get too invested but maybe that’s not the point. Perhaps Sing’s true intentions is to shuttle scenes along to the next hit pop song. All in all, it’s cute but not fulfilling.

Voice acting as well as direction are on par for an animated film. But it lacks the urgency and heart from other Illumination movies. Secret Life of Pets had Louis C.K. acting outside of his normal voice barometer alongside veterans Jenny Slate and Al Brooks. Here, McConaughey is the only standout. Save for the singing, there is nothing too substantial here.

Should you watch Sing?

Animated movies are usually a wealth of fun. Sing didn’t hit the right notes all the time. But when it worked, it was alright. Jennings’ triple duty may have been what was wrong with the junk food that is Sing. Then again, a movie based around today’s hits isn’t that worthwhile anymore. It’s not bad, per se; it just doesn’t excel.

Notes

  • Go read AV Club writer Jessee Hassenger’s writeup on animated movies with dance endings. It pretty much sums up what’s wrong with movies without proper endings.
  • Speaking of endings, Mike the mouse drives off before the competition is over and is still being chased by bears. There is no real conclusion. I cannot get past this, honestly.
  • The cast was near unrecognizable (which was probably enhanced because I didn’t know anyone besides MacFarlane and McConaughey were in the movie). I wonder if the rest of the cast could really sing like their characters. Where Pixar, Disney and Laika movies excel in the “conversational” aspect of voice acting, Illumination failed here.
  • Usually with cartoon movies, I have the want to rewatch them almost immediately. But this one might be one and done.
  • If you thought I was harsh, read Sophie Gilbert's review on The Atlantic. She wrote some truthful words there. 
  • It's VERY pretty, guys.