Buster Moon. Showman. Owner of the grandest theater in town. Suave businessman. Charmer. Koala Bear, in this land of anthropomorphic animals.
After a string of misfires and bad shows, Buster Moon (voiced by an admirably passionate Matthew McConaughey) only has one more chance to save his theater. He’ll do anything necessary to pull off his wild, crazy, totally unique idea.
A singing competition! You aren’t sick of those yet, are you? I didn’t think I would be when I sat down to watch Sing. Okay, maybe a little. I stopped watching “American Idol” and “The Voice” long ago. But I’m a fan of Illumination Entertainment, the studio behind Despicable Me and this year’s earlier The Secret Life of Pets. The trailers looked cute, the cast looked promising, and I was sure a good studio like this one could elevate the concept.
Sing, in its defense, is heartfelt. As heartfelt as a movie that pushes every successful, money-making kids movie button it could press can be. The cast (a lot of them unrecognizable in their voice roles) especially put a lot of effort into it, and I have no doubt director Garth Jennings poured his heart into the film. It simply cannot escape one thing: it always stoops to the lowest common denominator.
When discussing pop music on the radio once, my mom told me that most songs talk about love and sex and romance because they are the things everyone has in common. Mass appeal. A good artist can elevate those concepts. Bad artists just talk about them in unoriginal, common ways.
Sing is like its unoriginal soundtrack, full of the most over-used and basic songs you could possibly choose for its audience. It always chooses the least original way out. Need a gag for not really any reason? Fart joke. Need to make it obvious who is a girl and who is a boy in these animal animated movies? Sexualization of cartoon animals, check. Need to pack as many songs in for promotional appeal? Skim through that playlist like you’re David Ayer editing Suicide Squad. Need rational explanation for events? Don’t bother! It never reaches for anything higher, and never pushes itself to be funnier or nicer or more well animated or better in anything.
Sing is not the first movie to do this, of course. Some of my favorite animated movies have some of these problems. But this one especially disappoints, because I hoped this film would be better, and it includes all of these elements without much to redeem it.
That said, it isn’t devoid of funny moments. It has nice messages about working hard and enjoying being a performer because you love it, not for the glory or fame. If you take little kids to see it (and that’s about the only audience who will really love it, unless you’re raising young movie reviewers, in which case, congratulations! And they’ll probably be unimpressed too), they could learn some good things. Having a conversation afterwards about talent and doing things that scare you would be a good use of time.
“You know the great thing about hitting rock bottom?” Buster Moon asks his assistant, Miss Crawley (director Garth Jennings), during the film. He stands on a stage prop- a big crescent moon- and it ascends upwards. “The only place to go… is up!”
Sing however, never lifts off the ground