Charles Solomon Reviews “Sing” – Animation Scoop

Charles Solomon Reviews “Sing”

As it’s the 2nd talking koala movie, the 2nd juke box musical and the 11th talking animal movie of year, Illumination Entertainment’s Sing! suffers from a certain lack of originality.

Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), an upbeat, if less than honest koala, runs a crumbling theater that he’d love to restore to its former glory. But the series of flops he’s staged have reduced him to a point where even his llama pal Eddie (John C. Riley) won’t give him any more of his parents’ money. (Although he does have a very rich aunt…) Buster decides to put on a singing competition in the “America’s Got Talent”/”American Idol”/”The Voice”/”X Factor,” etc. mode in a last ditch effort to revive his fortunes. He offers a huge cash prize that he doesn’t have to attract applicants.

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Buster assembles a cast of different animals, each with a mini-backstory.
Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) is a housewife pig, weary of caring for her hordes of kids and incommunicative lunk of a husband. Cockney gorilla Johnny (Taron Ederton) wants to get away from his family of armed robbers. Although he plays sax as a busker, Rat Pack-esque Mike (Seth MacFarlane) the mouse belts like Sinatra on stage. Ash (Scarlett Johnasson), a punk porcupine, has been dumped by her patronizing boyfriend/partner. German techno-pig Gunter (Nick Kroll) has delusions of hipness that are supposed to provide comic relief, while shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly) conceals the most impressive set of pipes this side of the organ in Walt Disney Hall.

Do they come together and wow the audience? Do they discover that expressing themselves means more than the prize money ever could? Do they save the theater?
Does anyone have to ask?

As countless Busby Berkeley films, from 42nd Street to Babes on Broadway proved, a musical doesn’t need a great plot. But it does need great song and dance numbers and characters you root for—you want Ruby Keeler to go out there an unknown kid but come back a star.

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These characters are not terribly likable. Mike steals and cheats at cards, which viewers are supposed to forgive because trying to woo a girl mouse. Buster is a petty crook and Eddie isn’t terribly bright. The female characters all feel like doormats who’ve suddenly decided to stand up for themselves. Directors Christopher Lourdelet and Garth Jennings don’t help the problems by throwing in endless panning and trucking shots around the LA-esque setting. Everyone learned long ago it’s easy to move the camera around in CG, but there should be a reason for moving it.

After the DreamWorks-style pumped-up final number, I walked out of the screening with two questions:

• Why do this film with animal characters? Everything in it would be more effective human performers.

• Why animate it? It’s really a live action story. The situations and characters would have worked fine as a reunion vehicle for the cast of Glee.

Charles Solomon

Charles Solomon

Internationally known animation historian and critic, Charles Solomon has written over 15 books books including Enchanted Drawings: The History Of Animation, The Art of Disney's Frozen, and The Making of Peanuts Animation. Solomon's "The Art of Toy Story 3" will be published by Chronicle this spring.
Charles Solomon
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