Movie Review: ‘Sing’
Director: Garth Jennings
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton
Plot: When a koala looks to lose his theatre business he decides to set up a singing competitive. Through a typo people think the prize is $100,000 instead of $1000, and hundreds turn up to audition.
Review: You’re going to have to deal with my grumpy and cynical film critic attitude for a while, because there’s some trends in animated film that have getting my nerves the past few years and Sing appears to have been made entirely from the irksome trends themselves.
If you don’t want to read my grumpy rant against a harmless kids film, skip down to the wet pig.
What am I talking about? Well, I have a list.
- Casting marketable celebrities instead of voice actors substantially better qualified for the role (I wrote an entire article on this one already).
- Characters being based on said celebrities instead of being original characters.
- Throwing in one-hit wonder songs in place of a joke AND/OR chucking in catchy pop songs for positive association.
- Seth MacFarlane.
- Pop culture references that will mean nothing to an audience of children.
Now when we saw the trailers for Sing it looked like someone took the above list as a personal challenge. I wasn’t looking forward to it, but I took the kids (we’ll get to their thoughts on the film later, I’m being bitter) and, well…it was as expected.
First, they have absolutely cast this film with marketing in mind. They’ve made the cast list prominent in all the marketing. Not to disparage their work, because they are all fine (Taron Egerton is, as usual, a stand out), but there are some amazing voice actors who would’ve given the movie much more life and character. Of course they couldn’t then use the celebrities public image as the template for the characters.
Now for the third point concerning the use of pop music. Look, I know chucking in a one-hit wonder like ‘Baby Got Back’ is seemingly enough to generate a weak laugh and a couple of groans from the audience but it’s incredibly lazy. There’s no set-up, no gag – they just get thrown into animated movies for a reaction. Most of these songs are pretty good, just over played and now treated like a joke. How many random pop songs and one hit wonders does Sing feature?
At least 65 songs that we know and love. Do you what happens when you put 65 songs into a movie that runs less than 2 hours? Most of them get one line each. We literally go from the opening line of ‘The Safety Dance’ to the opening line of ‘Baby Got Back’ and then on to the next. A Jukebox Musical is a fine idea, and potentially lots of fun, but this is overkill. It cuts through songs faster than Suicide Squad. Hopefully this movie kills this obnoxious trend.
Also it has Seth MacFarlane in it. He plays a douche so again it’s a character based on the actor (goodness, I’m funny).
Finally, pop culture references that the target audience of children won’t understand. There’s a niche of films that are only known through their parodies, and animated films re-use them again and again. Illumination Animation must get a tax break for chucking in Saturday Night Fever jokes, because every freak’n time. And I know the rebuttal: the jokes are for the parents. But that’s not true either, because I’m a typically aged parent of a 6 and 4 year old and when Flashdance came out I was TWO YEARS OLD. I haven’t seen it, so this joke is dated even by my standards.
It’s not as stupid as a Ray Liotta cameo in Bee Movie, but still dumb.
So I’m a grumpy sod. What’s the movie like on its own merits? It’s coming out for Christmas and is fluffy, harmless fun. The characters are possible and they have put together a catchy playlist to amuse the audience. It’s not going to challenge you but it’s decent entertainment.
Each character gets their own backstory and reason for needing to competition. Some of these are good and quite heartfelt, such as Egerton not wanting to be part of his father’s gang of crooks, Johansson as a teen finding it hard to define herself as an individual and Witherspoon as a mother of 25 trapped in routine. The film would’ve been stronger if they’d cut the chaff and given these stronger roles more time instead of giving them equal time to MacFarlane’s douchebag mouse being a douche who is never redeemed in any way. The story bounces from one disconnected plot thread to another, which is easily the films weak spot. By the time we get to the finale we’re clocking almost two hours and kids were definitely fidgeting.
At a time when we’re seeing Zootopia, Big Hero Six and Moana promoting a better standard the racial stereotyping used in Sing for cheap laughs really stands out and feels awkward. Russian mafia bears and the perpetually confused and quirky J-Pop foxes are a pretty cheap shots. We don’t understand Japanese music! Look how silly they are! Bah.
Being an Illumination animated film, this is pretty standard stuff. Lots of pop culture references, passable animation (although it really bugs me that their nostrils never go anywhere) and fart jokes. If you are of a sunny disposition and find the Minions funny, this is be a crowd pleaser that is quickly forgotten. As for the kids, one like the dancing pigs and one liked the song he recognised from Madagascar 3, but I guess familiarity was an important part of music selection. For a cynical snot like me…
Rating: FOUR out of TEN