The latest animated feature from Illumination Studios and producer Chris Melendandri hit our screens last week. I finally got around to taking the family. Following a brilliant marketing campaign did the finished article live up to the hype?
Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) is a plucky koala bear whose beloved theatre has fallen on hard times. Desperate for a hit and about to lose his livelihood to the bank, he comes up with a idea to hold a singing competition. Attracting huge interest, Buster soon assembles a motley crew of talented animals including Rosita, a motherly pig (Reese Witherspoon), Mike, a crooning mouse (Seth MacFarlane), Johnny, a soulful Gorilla (Taron Egerton), Ash, a surly porkupine (Scarlett Johanssen) and Meena a shy elephant (Tori Kelly). As the competition draws near, will everything be alright on the night?
Sing is a full on, 100% proper musical, which as a fan of the genre was great for me. The ad campaign suggested this would be a film about a singing competition in the style of X-Factor or American Idol but it doesn’t really pan out that way. While it is a welcome departure, Illumination Studios should be careful as this is the second time they have advertised something and delivered something else (The Secret Life of Pets, was just a rescue mission rather that the promised peak behind the curtain).
Featuring more that 80 songs (some albeit very briefly) and almost 10 principle characters there is a lot to cram in and at 1 hour 47, its running time pushes it a little for its young audience. McConaughey’s Buster Moon is lovingly hyper-active and you will take him to your heart immediately making him very easy to root for. The rest of the characters don’t get a enough time to leave an impression as we are pulled in and out of their story at a breakneck pace. It would have made more sense to limit the cast list and maybe flesh out the back stories a little.
As with any musical it rises or falls with its songs and there is a wonderfully eclectic selection in here. For every Taylor Swift or Carley Ray Jepsen number you get The Beatles or Sinatra thrown in. A highlight for me was Johnny’s top tapping version of Elton John’s I’m Still Standing. With almost a song a minute the music never gets tiresome, as a snippet of a classic song will bring with it a knowing smile of recognition for someone in the audience with Butterfly by Crazy Town doing it for me.
With any non Disney feature, the voice cast is a real mixed bag of big names. McConaughey is great as is Egerton, The League’s Nick Kroll has a ball as Gunther a camp dancing pig and former American Idol contestant Tori Kelly is adorable as the gifted but cripplingly shy Meena. The rest however don’t really do much to make their character stand out with John C Reilly and Nick Offerman suffering the most. The biggest mystery is the immensely talented Peter Serafinowicz as Johnny’s gangster father, he seems to be doing an impression of Idris Elba rather than just finding a voice for his character.
Now, Sing is a perfectly fine family film, I just couldn’t shake that fact that it was just missing something that I cant quite put my finger on. It’s not that it didn’t have heart, it did (Buster and Meena) it just didn’t spend enough time focusing on it. It’s not that the songs weren’t great because they were, it’s just that the end performance just went on for 1 number too many. It’s not that it wasn’t fun because it was, it just didn’t spend enough time with the fun characters (Gunther). It kind of missed a trick in as much as it had a real chance to poke fun at the laboured reality TV format, but side stepped it. While, I will concede that biting satire shouldn’t be first on the list for a kids film but as Disney have shown on many occasions, it is possible to layer a film in such a way that there is something for everyone but with the exception of some classic songs on the soundtrack, this is one for the kids.
While not a classic by any stretch, this is an improvement from The Secret Life of Pets and will keep your little ones happy beyond its running time, just a warning though, be prepared to have to go to HMV right after the film to buy the soundtrack. As far as Illumination Studios are concerned they are a million miles away from creating another Despicable Me. Having said that, as I write this, the film has made $480m and a sequel is coming in 2020, so what do I know.
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.