Illumination Entertainment is the animation house not owned by the House of Mickey that is simply killing it at the box office. Last summer’s Secret Life of Pets was a pleasant surprise as the studio is proving it can extend content beyond Despicable Me/Minions storylines. It also proved that it can compete with Disney head-to-head as Pets found itself in the same release window as Pixar’s Finding Dory. This holiday season, it’s Walt Disney Animation Studios’ Moana on the other side. So how does Sing stack up? Read on and find out.
Writing & Pacing
The writing of this film, as an animal film, accounts for different physiologies of the different animals being presented. While the physical differences did not vary as much as 2016’s early entry of Zootopia, it was enough for the writers to make certain animal choices to distinguish Sing. For example, the lead character is a koala named Buster Moon. When doesn anyone ever use a koala? They are so unique and noticeable in their look. He does a lot of koala-esque climbing throughout the film to keep his theater running. Another great choice for an animal character is a porcupine named Ash. The pointy quills on this animal combined with a heavy metal music genre that employs a lot of head-banging makes for a dangerous combination. Outside of these two characters, the design was simply average.
The characters are introduced in a city-zooming view. It’s not nearly as impressive as the studio’s city-zooming in New York for its last entry of Secret Life of Pets, but it does the job to get us right into each character without spending too much time. In terms of actual dialogue, you don’t really expect a whole lot from a children’s movie and Sing doesn’t push it too much. You don’t hear any risks like the kind you’d find out of the filmmakers in Emeryville. Finding Dory using Sigourney Weaver as a character is a risky and innovative move. You don’t get any of that from Sing. The writers also benefit (and maybe fall into the abyss of cliches) because we’re so used to singing competitions like American Idol and The Voice where all of these same storylines are bit played out. Audiences aren’t finding any new innovation in story here.
Design and Presentation
The design of the characters is solid, but again there’s no real “wow” factor here. Part of the reason is because Zootopia happened last year. The design of that film blows Sing away and you can’t help but make comparisons. The koala and the porcupine were fresh choices, but they were the only character design strength. The presentation of the small animal city world were okay. For a third time in broken record fashion, this is another case of Zootopia happened last year, as well as Illumination’s presentation of New York in Secret Life of Pets. Even Finding Dory made us feel like we were visiting an aquarium. There was much better immersion in those other animated films than at any point in Sing.
Matthew McConaughey is a great actor, but the role of Buster Moon is kind of a typecast role for him. If he could only integrate an Australian accent for playing a koala bear, it would’ve made this role fresh. Instead, McConaughey is a charming showman that’s not that different from his work on Magic Mike except for a younger target audience. Another standout is Johansson, which we haven’t gotten a “goth chick” character out of her possibly ever. You would’ve never known it was her especially with all her recent action films. John C. Reilly provides his usual solid support work for any film. The show-stealer voice performance; however, goes to Nick Kroll as the bubbly, dancer pig Gunter. He took us out of the singing competition and into Strictly Ballroom humor.
Overall Rating: C+
Sing is an enjoyable film that integrates all of the singing competition shows we’ve gotten a heavy dose of in the past 15 years. It’s not the best animal film of 2016 nor does it take risks with its writing. However if you’re looking to find a film that the kids will enjoy after watching Moana, Sing is it.
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