Ideally, a movie trailer provides just enough of a “tease” to get viewers excited about an upcoming film. But, it shouldn’t reveal all the plot’s highlights. Unfortunately, that’s what the trailer for “Sing” did. So, audiences may feel a bit let down when viewing the actual film.
“Sing’s” soundtrack and vocal talents are terrific. But, when it comes to plot, there’s not much more going on than was shown in the trailer- a mother pig dances in the grocery aisles; a gorilla tries to relate to his bank robber dad; an elephant literally brings the house down with her singing; and a showman koala stages a contest.
“Sing’s” basic theme is one familiar to fans of Judy Garland/ Mickey Rooney musicals: “Let’s put on a show!” Theater owner Buster Moon (voice of Matthew McConaughey) is down on his luck. Ever the promoter, he decides his last chance to save his business is to hold a singing contest.
The top prize is supposed to be $1000. But, an accidental typo on the flyer changes the prize to $100,000! Naturally, contestants show up in droves. Unaware of the inflated prize amount, Buster auditions competitors that range from singing shrimp to a rapper alligator.
Eventually Buster narrows it down to six contestants: pigs Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) and Gunter (Nick Kroll); gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton); rodent Mike (Seth MacFarlane); porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson); and elephant Meena (Tori Kelly). In addition to competing, each of the contestants has a challenge to overcome, ranging from stage fright to entanglements with criminals.
“Sing” is populated entirely with animal characters. This inevitably leads to comparisons to this year’s “Zootopia.” Unfortunately, the animation from Illumination (creators of the “Despicable Me” series and this year’s “The Secret Life of Pets”) isn’t nearly as detailed as that achieved by Pixar in “Zootopia.” Pixar pushed the envelope on developing techniques to sculpt hair and create texture. While Illumination also did some of this to render the quills for porcupine Ash and the fur for gorilla Johnny and koala Buster, the end product can’t compare to the lushness Pixar achieved for “Zootopia.”
“Sing’s” script was written by the film’s co-director Garth Jennings. While the challenges the main characters face are understandable, they’re also simplistic. This will work fine for the children in the audience but their parents (and any other adults) may find the plot predictable. Jennings hasn’t quite captured the dual levels of storytelling- basic plot for kids with humor/ insight scattered throughout for adults- that makes many contemporary animated films so successful. Additionally, during the film’s first half hour, the script jumps from one scenario to the next as it introduces the main competitors’ backstories. This ultimately becomes distracting.
Luckily, once the music starts, “Sing” shines. The auditions play like outtakes from “American Idol” (but without Simon Cowell’s sarcasm). The vocal talents for the six main competitors are impressive. From Witherspoon and Kroll performing “Shake It Off” to MacFarlane’s crooning “My Way,” the songs are recognizable, upbeat and creatively presented. Egerton’s performance of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” will especially energize the audience. And, it’s a witty touch to have MacFarlane’s rodent character be a literal “Rat Pack” singer.
In their choice of songs and vocal talents, directors Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet scored a perfect ten. It’s too bad “Sing’s” script doesn’t score equally high. Moviegoers who decide to wait for the movie to come to DVD should check out the film’s soundtrack now. In addition to songs from the six main vocal leads there is also music by the Gipsy Kings, Queen and Jennifer Hudson. The music will have listeners singing along!