From the studio behind Despicable Me and the Secret Life of Pets comes yet another quirky animated delight. Borrowing an anthropomorphised animal world of characters from Disney’s Zootopia (though seemingly more for the fun of it than a tool for social commentary), Sing follows endlessly optimistic koala Buster Moon as he desperately tries to save his flailing theatre business from the snarling jaws of the bank by staging an amateur singing competition.
Playing on the once innovative now done-to-death search for natural talent TV show format (Brits of a certain age will no doubt remember when Popstars burst onto our screens, unaware decades of reincarnations were to follow), some of the highlights of the film mirror those of the real life programmes. The often cruelly hilarious auditions are reimagined, with bunnies singing Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda (“OMG look at her butt”), a bull’s rendition of Crazy Town’s You’re My Butterfly and Japanese kittens relentlessly performing an insanity-inducing J-Pop routine. We discover heartbreaking backstories of the contestants that, for what is ostensibly a kids movie, tackle genuine issues: a female trying to balance motherhood with her own aspirations as a Reese Witherspoon-voiced sow burdened with 25 piglets and an overworked husband, and Taron Egerton’s cockney gorilla who shuns the criminal gang of his mobster Dad to follow his dreams.
Star-studded talent and irreverent humour carry a joke-heavy script. Scarlett Johansson’s husky tones voice an edgy punk-rock-chick porcupine, who casually takes a swipe at Taylor Swift’s sickly sweet pop, and Matthew McConaughey’s southern drawl brings a brilliant balance between romantic artist and charming charlatan as Buster. Stunning vocals from Tori Kelly as a stage-phobic elephant and an unexpectedly moving performance of Frank Sinatra’s My Way from Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane as mouse Mike top a karaoke jukebox of singalong classics.
Whether knowingly, however, behind the core message of “Don’t let fear stop you from doing the thing you love”, there are some darker societal reflections. In the end Mr Moon gives up work with original playwrights to resort to unoriginal, formulaic popular entertainment – the film itself only has one brand new song, Set It All Free – and Buster loses ownership of his theatre to a rich aristocrat, while soulful gorilla Johnny’s father ends up in prison.
But regardless of message, the animal characters allow director Garth Jennings to poke fun in new and creative ways (the elderly glass-eyed chameleon he voices himself is a consistent comic relief), resulting in a solidly entertaining, if tongue-in-cheek, feel-good musical.
Sing is released nationwide on 27th January 2017.
Watch the trailer for Sing here: