Film Review: Sing

Welcome to American Idol meets The Voice except this time the contestants are all creatures great and small. The latest instalment from the masterminds who brought us Inside Out and Despicable Me the team at Illumination have presented the perfect musical jukebox to lead us into the Christmas season.

This is the story of Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) an American-accented cutesy koala who is facing impending repossession of his beloved theatre after a series of flops. His lightbulb moment (although hardly original) is to have a singing competition to rouse the masses. Supported by his rather myopic assistant Miss Crawly, the flyers are distributed across town but due to a few extra key board strokes the prize money is $99,000 more than he has to his name.

Nevertheless, the dollars attract an assortment of characters who range from a teenage gorilla who would rather sing ballads than join his father in crime, an overworked mother pig with a family of 25 squealing children and an inattentive husband, a shy teenage elephant who gets stage fright, a spiky rockstar porcupine who has just broken up with her boyfriend and a cocky but talented mouse with a penchant for living the high life. Coming together to sing their hearts out this rather bizarre menagerie is as recognisable as it is heart-warming.

Written and directed by Gareth Jennings, who also voices Miss Crawly the chameleon, this action-packed animation delves into the lives of its mammalian characters with all the speed of The Fast and the Furious except it does so in the introductory five minutes. Also, unlike most formulaic family movies SING takes us not just to the depths of poor Mr. Moon’s despair but literally razes his dreams to the ground.

Sure there’s a few sappy and cliched lines, but as a koala who’s made his life in show biz and must now turn to washing cars for a living, it’s credit to the team for not pulling out the stops before starting the re-build.

Although the character design could be improved, the film boasts a good storyline and a hard-to-fault collection of amazing songs. From Frank Sinatra to Beyoncé to Leonard Cohen one can only think sympathetically of the legal team who had to get clearance for 65 songs to make this the toe-tapping playlist of the year.

The cast all sang their own songs (but then again auto-tune) but Scarlett Johansson’s vocal contribution to teenage punk rocker Ash is surprisingly good, especially in the rendition of ‘Set It All Free’ by Dave Bassett – noticeably the only original composition in the film.

It’s family fun at its best and doesn’t even need minions to win you over.

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Dione is an Auckland based theatre director and writer with background in performance and community & cultural development. She works as a freelance arts journalist, guest lecturer and creative advisor on a range of different projects both in New Zealand and internationally. She is primarily a non-fiction reviewer who adores travelogues, history, memoirs and creative cooking texts. Read more at www.dionejoseph.com

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