BY ROGER THOMAS
I am not a fan of the “Despicable Me” films nor am I impressed with the “Minions.” Therefore, when I heard that the same people were creating a new animated feature about singing animals, I was not overly excited. However, I have to admit, I like “Sing!” more than I expected and certainly more than any of the aforementioned films above.
“Sing!’ tells a simple story of an manager who is trying to make money to keep his theatre in business. He decides to do a music competition, somewhat like all the talent contests that fill our television networks so frequently. If one is a fan of “American Idol,” “The Voice,” or even “Dancing with the Stars,” that person would probably find the film even more appealing than I did. But again, I liked it more than I thought I would and I watch none of those shows with any regularity.
At the first of the film I was trying to figure out why the characters had to be animals. I understand that animals are probably more amusing and appealing for children, the target audience of the film, but I thought while watching it, this could have used animated humans just as well. However, as the film progresses, and I witnessed the specific natures of the various characters, I found the various creatures more appealing. Before the film was over, I could not imagine it being made without the well-chosen cast of characters that belong in a zoo.
One of the films greatest strengths is the backstories for each of the characters. There is a mother pig who is trying to raise a large litter of piglets when she is not rehearsing for the contest. There is a young Gorilla who hopes music and the music competition can save him from his father’s path, which leads to a life of crime. These stories and the ones of the other characters are sweet and sentimental for the most part.
Visually, “Sing!” has a special look about it. I personally did not care for the quick rushing moments when the film is going from one character to another. The backgrounds, the city settings and all the characters are well created and will especially appeal to children with the collection of bright colors used by the filmmakers.
“Sing!” also offers quite a selection of stars who voice the characters. Matthew McConaughey plays a Koala Bear which seems to be a slight stretch for him. Reese Witherspoon, Seth Macfarlane, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Hudson and John C. Reilly also play different various species as the story develops. Lots of talent throughout the cast.
One of the other attributes that elevates “Sing!” is the songs chosen for the film. There are many popular and also some original pieces. Overall my toes were tapping frequently which is always a good sign while watching a musical.
The film’s ending is predictable, but I have to admit, I did not know what would happen before the climax. Three quarters into the film, there is something that surprised me and from which I was not sure the story could survive, yet it did. The filmmakers made the right choice even though I was not sure while watching the twist happen on screen.
So “Sing!” has several strengths that make it was worthwhile viewing endeavor. It certainly is better than the “Despicable” films. “Sing!” tries hard to be moving and succeeds on some level at least half of the time.
I guess I am just spoiled by Pixar. Every time “Sing!” sought to move the audience, I thought, “Pixar” would have done this differently or that would have been more emotional. However, every animated feature cannot be a masterpiece, but thank goodness they are not all “Despicable Me” either.
Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.