I just realized how many Illuminati jokes I have been missing out on with Illumination Entertainment. After all, they created the biggest child-pandering gimmick (the Minions) this side of Disney princesses. And after the useless trash that is The Secret Life of Pets, It wouldn’t surprise me if they are trying to create a new revolution of animation that is nothing but pandering. That is… until I watched Sing.
Sing is directed by Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet and written by Garth Jennings. Stars-Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth McFarlane, John C. Reilly, Scarlett Johannsen, and Taron Edgerton. Premise- Buster Moon (McConaughey) is a koala whose Broadway-style musical theater is nearly out of business. His plan is to find new talent and bring back his audience. Problem is, he only has $1,000 to his name. Undaunted, he decides to use that as prize money for a singing competition.
You have no idea how much this movie surprised me. By now you know that I despise the approach to filmmaking that this production company has. However, Sing is simply one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen from them. This is because it was a passion project from the directors, and that really shows in the concept.
The concept is like a kid-friendly version of Birdman with a bit of High School Musical thrown in. I love the tributes to cinema they make throughout the movie (the main character is partially named after Buster Keaton, they explain the different revolutions the industry has gone through, and the overall style of the movie feels like a behind-the-scenes documentary). However, this concept needed much better execution.
While these characters aren’t awful, they are all clichés or stereotypes. The angsty teenage girl, the passionate son with a disapproving father, the overworked/underappreciated housewife, the old lady who forgets things, the pretentious musician (Seth McFarlane was a perfect casting choice for this one), the shy girl with the voice of gold, etc. You’ve seen all these stereotypes a million times, and sadly, they do little to change up these clichés, aside from given them some funny lines. The problem that comes with these overdone characters is overdone character arcs. You can probably predict that the jerk will get corrected, the shy girl will blow everyone away, and so on. To be honest, that didn’t bother me too much, what did bother me was the main character’s arc. Guess what? It’s the “liar revealed” plotline. Aside from being annoyingly overused, it is incredibly predictable. There are no spoilers in my reviews, or in the premise. You can predict that his lie (regarding the prize money) is going to lead to a whole lot of “drama” and a whole lot of wasted time that we (as an audience) know will be resolved because it always is with this stupid cliché! Sorry, I really wish that cliché wasn’t here because “producer” character type has a lot of creative ideas around it (again, Birdman).
The biggest concern has yet to be stated: why is this thing animated with anthropomorphic animals? I know why, animated films with animals are more profitable now than they have ever been, but there was really no need. The gimmick of elephants and three inch tall mice singing wears off after a while and they do so little with the whole “animals take the place of humans” thing. After Zootopia (which brilliant used it’s animal setting), I cannot let this slide anymore. It makes just about as much sense as writing a kid-friendly New York mob tale with fish and sharks, oh wait…
That considered, the animation in this movie is breathtaking. There will be one or two odd close-up shots here and there, but I gotta say, this stuff needs to be seen. The character movement, the designs, the use of color, the kinetic editing, and the detail (if you look for detail in this animation, you will be greatly rewarded) in every frame is 3D at its best.
The only thing more impressive is the soundtrack and singing. Are there over 100 pre-existing songs in this movie? I dunno, I didn’t count. What I do know is that, while there are many pre-existing songs in this movie, they are used to introduce us to the characters’ personalities and the songs are almost never played start-to-finish. Unlike in Trolls, the songs actually serve a purpose and the music goes through many different genres. This movie’s title is generic and obvious (kinda like Brave, or Frozen, or Tangled, or Hop, or Cars), but man these people can sing! You have to sit through a lot of predictable junk in the second act, but the third act is a beautiful combination of drama, outstanding choreography and lighting, and top-notch vocal talent. You will be just as blown away as the characters in the movie.
It ticks me off that this movie is both making less money than The Secret Life of Pets, and has a less positive critical response than that movie. There was clearly more effort on a story level in Sing than there was in that Toy Story rip-off. One of my notes was “I’m actually impressed” because this movie’s commercials really didn’t interest me, and with my aforementioned hatred of IE, I wasn’t expecting much (maybe that’s why I like it more than other critics). That aside, as far as 2016 movies go, this is one of the most harmlessly fun ones out there. Sing gets Guy’s Guru Grade of a B+.