Sing is the newest addition to the now rather lengthy library of Illumination Animation products, filing in alongside movies such as The Lorax, The Secret Life of Pets and, of course, the ever-infuriating Minions. Sing includes a huge star-studded cast of A-list actors such as Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Nick Kroll, John C. Reilly and the list just goes on and on. Buster Moon the koala, played by McConaughey, is on brink of having his theatre shut down due to lack of funding. In order to raise this money, he holds auditions for a singing competition with a large cash reward for whoever comes out the victor. Naturally, people turn out in their hundreds, and through this we get to know a handful of individuals, and their motives for wanting to take part in the competition are revealed with time.
Okay, I can drop the act: I hate this thing, this product, this stain. I hate it, not so much for the quality of said thing, but for what the thing represents: a rushed, sickeningly pandering mishmash of popular songs, well-known actors and, of all things, talking animals. If you just so happened to have been living in an underground abandoned mineshaft for the past year or so, you may have noticed a particularly odd trend in animated films, that being the aforementioned talking animals theme. In 2016 alone, we had Zootopia, Finding Dory and The Secret Life of Pets, and each one made it into the top five highest-grossing films of the year (so I suppose the trend is perhaps not so ambiguous). However, while The Secret Life Of Pets was at least tolerable, Sing just made me furious.
From the get-go, it’s obvious this is riding on the success of Zootopia, which unsurprisingly was one of the highest-grossing films of the last year, accumulating over $1 billion worldwide. However, what sets these two movies apart is one has substance and a purpose to exist, whilst the other has only the latter. And that’s to make money. Just like every other Illumination project and it works every fucking time. But I digress – another criticism I would like to address has been relevant ever since animal-centric films have existed: is there a purpose to the characters being animals and if so, does it positively affect the film overall?
I would like to use another comparison for reference: Finding Nemo and Shark Tale. In Finding Nemo, the characters are fish for a reason, that being the plot simply couldn’t function without that aspect. Not only does it work with the themes of journeying, loss and uncharted territory, but it gives the story a sense of scope and tension: how on Earth is this little clownfish supposed to traverse an entire ocean, survive every potential danger he could possibly come across, and reach his son before it may be too late? Now take Dreamworks’ Shark Tale, a very, very, very bad movie which tries desperately to be a child-friendly Godfather, but ends up feeling like a pointless cash-grab capitalising on the success of Finding Nemo by making every character a fish. There is no clever, funny twist on the traditional gangster-film formula to accommodate the change in setting so I must ask: what is the point? I mean, the characters even stand upright instead of, you know, acting like FISH.
Now let’s compare Zootopia and Sing. Zootopia stars a collection of animal characters in a buddy-cop crime comedy, but the inclusion of anthropomorphic characters makes sense because it ties in nicely as an allegory for racism and segregation. However, Sing has absolutely no reason to follow in a similar suit. I tried desperately hard to remember even one subtle mannerism that defined these characters as animals and not people in animal costumes, but it was to no avail. There is nothing unique or special about the world which has been created, nor is there is a purpose for its existence – it’s just another way for Illumination and Universal Studios to make money.
It must not be forgotten that the incredible cast of hilarious, talented actors at their disposal are insultingly underused. As this is an ensemble story, it requires every character to have some sort of development and backstory. Unfortunately, Sing takes the route of giving 6 different characters an equal amount of time for backstory, so in the effort to give everyone development, no-one is given enough. It’s a shame because there is a lot to work with here: the dishevelled son brought up by a criminal father, an overworked housewife with a lazy husband who doesn’t acknowledge her, an aspiring rock artist who is held back by her pretentious, arrogant boyfriend. There is so much good material to work with, but the writing simply doesn’t hold it all together. Similarly, as each character is given equal screen time, none of the voice actors are given an opportunity to shine, bar when they are singing. On a positive note, all the actors’ singing performances were fantastic, especially Tori Kelly.
The plot is about as boring and uninspired as it gets, with a moment of conflict to transition the second act into the third, a liar-revealed story and an overly sentimental, all-is-resolved ending to boot. I would like to discuss the ending in particular detail, so for anyone who cares, SPOILERS LIE AHEAD (but it’s predictable as anything you’ll see for the next millennium so don’t worry too much).
This may well be one of most dissatisfying endings I have seen in a very long time. For a while, the characters looked as if they were going to ditch their monotonous lives and start anew, and admittedly if they had had the pig leave her husband at the end or the gorilla ditch his dad, I would have given Sing extra points for at least having some balls. But alas, my hopes were destined to amount to nothing as the husband kisses the wife, the gorilla’s dad finally accepts his son for who he is (*retch*) and so on and so forth. This utterly obnoxious conclusion to an otherwise totally forgettable story fully epitomised everything wrong with Sing and its disgusting, pandering ways. It was such a huge disappointment because I hoped and prayed this product could at least be a FILM, if anything.
Sing makes me certainly wish to sing aloud!..my wish to be executed as soon as possible because FUCK ILLUMINATION ANIMATION. Other than some decent animation and good singing performances, there is incredibly little to redeem this obvious cash-grab. The saddest thing about this is that it will almost certainly work and Illumination will continue to make soulless Minion-tier trash for years to come.
Perhaps I should simply purchase all the merchandise and soundtrack, lean back like a good little consumer and listen to my absolute favourite, outdated, shitty pop songs on loop. That should calm me down.