Director: Garth Jennings
Starring: Taron Egerton, Reese Witherspoon, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Hudson, Peter Serafinowicz, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Saunders, Garth Jennings, Nick Kroll & Nick Offerman.
Plot: Theatre owner Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) initiates a city-wide singing competition to rescue his beloved theatre from inevitable bankruptcy. Moon selects a variety of anthropomorphic creatures who showcase their vocal abilities in exchange for a shot at winning the competition and gaining a potential cash-based prize.
Garth Jennings’ ‘Sing’ (2017) is an animation film that features a unique combination of humour and anthropomorphic animals in the form of an electric and moving animated musical. The piece itself was produced by no other than Illumination Entertainment who are famed for producing the phenomenally successful Minions (2015) movie and, given their history at producing such gems as Despicable Me (2010), one was expecting Sing to deliver an essence of quality, which it certainly achieved.
In short, the plot is centred around the life of Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a bow-tie bearing Koala bear who runs a city-based theatre. Surprisingly, the premise of the film was inspirational, and I felt that this was spearheaded by the backstory of McConaughey’s character, whose primary desire was to attain the cherished theatre in which he had shared sentimental moments with his father.
When we are introduced to the characters and the universe, the theatre itself is in disrepair and Moon is struggling to keep up the maintenance of the building due to financial troubles. So, to save the theatre from closure, Moon decides to hold open auditions for a singing competition in the hopes that it will bring both an audience and revenue to his beloved place of work. Moon has nothing to offer the competition winner but $1000 worth of personal items so, in desperation, he instructs his elderly Chameleon secretary Miss Crawley (Garth Jennings) to create flyers for the competition featuring the mention of the $1000 prize money. Miss Crawley accidentally issues an extra two zeros on the end of the original jackpot when her glass eye falls onto the keyboard (the notion of the glass eye is a running gag throughout the narrative) and the popularity of the prospective competition sky rockets, despite Moon tackling problems with his physically decaying theatre.
The decaying theatre and decaying personal and professional lives of the central protagonist mirrored each other, something I found to be somewhat of a beautiful metaphor in of itself but also with regard to the world of Hollywood and the music industry outside of the film. The narrative is very much that of any typical American Dream arc, with the line “you know what’s great about hitting rock bottom? There’s only one way left to go and that’s up” being the perfect encapsulation of this. Within the narrative Moon finds himself homeless without any job prospects or income, yet with encouragement from contestants of former competitions manages to set up a temporary venue for his singing competition and stage the shows. It’s the sort of rags to riches story we get all the time, only with talking animals.
Jennings’s piece features a star-studded cast consisting of Taron Egerton, who voices a gorilla named Johnny who wants to pursue a life in showbiz much to the dismay of his mob boss father (Peter Serafinowicz), Reese Witherspoon a mother to 25 piglets named Rosita whose dream is to sing but has numerous obstacles to overcome, and Tori Kelly who plays an incredibly shy elephant named Meena who is pursuaded to enter the competition by her grandfather, played by Jay Pharoah.
Also featured is the character of Ash (Scarlett Johansson), an alternative teenage porcupine who despises mainstream music, Gunter (Nick Kroll), an all singing and all dancing extroverted pig and conclusively Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a self-assured, boastful mouse who presumes that he will win the competition with ease. It’s quite the talented cast and a rounded spectrum of characters of whom to identify with, but I would say that the character of Mike was my favourite as I have always been a fan of Seth MacFarlane’s work in general, and his renowned humorous outlook is presented within the narrative as his is a comical character with a sharp wit. The film featured several moments which involved MacFarlane’s singing, which I was astounded at. Mike was clearly based on Frank Sinatra and, towards the film’s conclusion, bellowed a rendition of ‘My Way’, which was both profound and incredible regarding its quality. In fact, it was just one of many strong vocal performances within a film that boasts a stunning soundtrack that works to further the film’s overarching rags to riches story as well as firmly plant its feet within popular culture.
Perhaps the major criticism of Sing could be the relatively slow progression of the narrative in the opening act which worked to bring more attention and identifiability to the film’s central protagonist but could also cause a few of the younger audience members to switch off. Also, I found that the ending was slightly rushed in the sense that it refrained from showcasing how the careers of the contestants panned out, something its overall gleeful experience seemed to warrant. Generally speaking, I felt that Jennings cleverly infused humour into the film and I found myself laughing throughout (which is quite rare as I often find humour to be lacking in animation). Conclusively, the animated musical featured a harmonious balance of music, hardship, success and a wide cast of anthropomorphic animals with extensive vocal ranges. I would recommend this to all animation and musical lovers alike.