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Review: Sing‘s Music Numbers Are Fun, but Film Suffers From an Unoriginal Plot

2 out of 5 stars

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Sing, the most recent movie from Illumination Entertainment, fell flat. I know that’s the obvious pun, but Indiewire began theirs with “Before we talk about ‘Sing,’ let’s talk about Satan” so why bother?

Anyway, despite having a star-filled cast and adorable animals I spent a great deal of the movie reminiscing about how much I enjoyed the animal world of Zootopia more. In fact, Sing feels more like a movie that would exist within Zootopia than a real movie I watched. It’s a bit unfair to compare the two though. Sing isn’t a movie trying to explore any especially timely issues, nor does it announce itself as something original or groundbreaking. It’s a feel-good film for children with cute animals and fun tunes. Sing succeeds at that and I never felt like it was striving for more.

Even within this formulaic story, however, the film isn’t that charming. Matthew McConaughey plays Buster Moon, the theater-running Koala Bear with a love for shows and big dreams. His ambition is supposed to be touching, as we watch him desperately try to run a singing competition through stealing, hustling, and lying to continue the business. I found Buster really unlikable–he doesn’t pay people who worked for him, his desperation for money comes across as manipulative, and he’s super rude and unaccommodating to his contestants. While we anticipate his scheme eventually falling apart, I felt like the movie wanted us to root for him while I was just hoping he’d give the theater over to someone more competent.

There’s some heart to Sing that comes through in our contestant characters–the pop music-loving pig mother Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) who’s paired with a flamboyant European pig (Nick Kroll), the gorilla from a crime family that just wants to sing named Johnny (Taron Egerton), an aspiring rock-star porcupine named Ash that fights against her spotlight-hogging boyfriend (Scarlett Johansson), and the painfully stage-shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly). These are the character you do enjoy seeing and root for to succeed. Seth MacFarlane also plays a gambling rat that loves the look and music of the Rat Pack, weirdly enough, but it’s still not as confusing as a group of giggling red pandas (I think?) meant to represent a Japanese girl group.

The films pushes forward touching messages–that everyone should be permitted to pursue their dreams, that overcoming fear is a wonderful thing, and that one should know their own worth and leave behind people who doubt them. I’m always a huge sucker for the whole “parents that didn’t agree with your dreams tell you they’re proud of you” plot line. However, it feels like reiterations of cliches that we’ve already seen in similar formats. Additionally, small moments of the film snag when you look too closely (Buster dismisses a giraffe for simply being too tall and difficult to talk to–what about his dreams?). Like we noted in our review of Minions, it feels counterproductive to seriously critique Sing in these moments–but they are there.

Much like the studio’s Secret Life of Pets, moments that you feel should hold emotional weight don’t really pull much of a punch and jokes rarely elicited more than a small chuckle on my part. I had fun, don’t get me wrong. The songs are entertaining and there’s genuine excitement in seeing performances from our contestants, but with all the animation hits we’ve seen this year it’s hard not to feel underwhelmed by what is a fully average movie.

Still, I get that I’m probably not the ideal demographic for the film and many of the children I saw looked like they had a great time. Sing comes to theaters December 21st.

(Image via screencap)

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