Arts movie review

Oh great, another singing competition

Matthew McConaughey and Seth MacFarlane are two of many voices in Sing

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Matthew McConaughey stars as dapper koala Buster Moon, who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times, in the event film "Sing," from Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures.
Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures

Directed by Garth Jennings
Starring Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane
Rated PG
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A decade ago, American Idol hit its peak (yes, it’s really that old), but even after that craze died down, other singing competitions took its place. America’s Got Talent (which is practically a singing competition) and The Voice became America’s new obsessions, and it’s because these hit reality shows have perfected the formula: find a pool of talented singers, pit them against each other, tell viewers their backstories, and make viewers emotionally attached to these competitors.

Illumination Entertainment’s latest animated film, Sing, is jumping on the singing competition train, following the journey of theater-owning koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) as he tries to revive his theater’s financial woes by staging a city-wide singing competition. After a set of auditions, the selected competitors are a loving mother pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), an arrogant mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a shy teenage elephant Meena (Tori Kelly), a punk-rock porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), and mobster son gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton). From there, the plot chugs along predictably as they rehearse, and the film focuses in on the lives of the individual competitors in between scenes about their preparation.

And that’s exactly the problem — with five competitors, there’s only so much backstory and character development that can be given to each within the 110 minute runtime. It was so close to that perfect formula for a riveting singing competition. It just couldn’t check that last box — make viewers emotionally attached to the competitors.

The characters were terribly cookie cutter in their stereotypes. Porcupine Ash was nothing more than an angsty young guitarist jealous over her ex-boyfriend’s new flame. Meanwhile, pig Rosita was just a stressed out mother, and the film really pushed this characterization by giving her 25 kids and a workaholic husband.

I wish that the film zeroed in on just one or two of the characters, so that they were more than just a single adjective. There was definitely the potential, but the film spread itself too thin by shallowly peering into the lives of too many characters.

Perhaps this was a result of the star-studded cast, and the producers wanting to give all of these famous voices their fair share of time. The singing was phenomenal, and Seth MacFarlane’s crooning melodies were the acoustic equivalent of champagne. Later in the film, Tori Kelly’s powerful rendition of “Hallelujah” gave me goosebumps.

Nevertheless, Sing has its cute jokes, and some hilarious moments of pure slapstick comedy. For kids, it’s a fun two hours of animated animals singing and poking fun at each other, but for the older crowd, you should probably stick with the tried and tested TV singing competitions for your own entertainment.