Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Garth Jennings
Stars: voices of: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Taron Egerton, Scarlett Johansson, Tori Kelly, Seth McFarlane, John C Reilly, Nick Kroll, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones, Garth Jennings, Beck Bennett, Peter Serafinowicz, Jay Pharoah, Rhea Pearlman.
Like the recent Zootopia, the animated, family friendly Sing is set in a city populated entirely by animals, creatures great and small.
Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) is a koala who runs a theatre, but he has fallen on hard times and is almost broke. To try and reverse his fortunes and save his theatre from being repossessed by the banks he decides to stage a singing competition which is open to all comers. He offers a big cash prize.
We are presented with a wonderful array of characters here as hundreds of hopefuls line up to audition. Rosalita (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) is a music loving pig who is raising a litter of 24 piglets, and she is partnered with the flamboyant Gunter (Nick Kroll) who has a penchant for gaudy costumes. Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) is an elephant with a passion for singing but she is unfortunately shy and suffers a terrible case of stage fright. Johnny (voiced by Taron Egerton, from Kingsman: The Secret Service, etc) is a gorilla with the voice of an angel, but he also juggles rehearsals with driving the getaway car for his father’s criminal gang, and this competition may be the only way he can escape a life of crime. The spiky haired porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson) is an aspiring singer and songwriter who breaks away from her boyfriend to go solo. The diminutive Mike (Seth McFarlane) is a mouse with a voice like Sinatra’s, but he has a huge ego and is disdainful of his fellow competitors.
Putting on a show is one of the familiar tropes of the old fashioned Hollywood musicals and here it is played for laughs. In this very busy scenario, nothing goes smoothly during the audition process or in the lead up to the big night.
The director is Garth Jennings (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, etc), and this is his first feature film since 2007’s quirky Son Of Rambow. The animation is colourful and detailed, and Jennings maintains the energy and pace throughout this lively animated feature. He gives us a colourful cast of characters, and well developed backstories and narrative arcs for the central characters. My favourite was Ms Crawly (voiced by Jennings himself), Moon’s elderly and clumsy reptilian assistant who is a great source of slapstick physcial humour. Five cute singing Japanese pandas also provide a running joke throughout the film.
Given the musical nature of Sing, the film has a great soundtrack which ranges from classical opera through to popular songs of the 40s and even contemporary hits. The film itself features some 85 songs sprinkled throughout the film, some performed in full but some only heard in passing or in rapidly edited montages during the audition process. The A-list cast do their own singing here, and somewhat surprisingly they nail their vocal performances.
With his distinctive Texan twang, McConaughey is good as the optimistic and smooth talking Moon. Others in the cast include Absolutely Fabulous’ Jennifer Saunders as a former star of musical theatre whom Moon hopes to convince to back his endeavours, Nick Offerman, Jennifer Hudson, and Leslie Jones. Keeping it in the family, Jennings’ own children provide the voices for four of Rosita’s piglets.
The delightful and entertaining Sing offers up an appealing mix of music and comedy. The multi-layered script deals with some positive themes of friendship, family, following your dreams, taking chances, and believing in yourself. Sing is not for the very young, but it will appeal to those audiences who enjoy watching television talent shows like The Voice and its ilk.