“Sing,” like the name would suggest, is a jukebox musical. The hits of Taylor Swift, Elton John and even the late, great Leonard Cohen are all present and sung by a lounge singing mouse and an elephant, among others. Think of it as the “Jersey Boys” of the animal kingdom and you’ll get the idea.
“Sing” is Matthew McConaughey’s second animated movie of the year after Kubo and the Two Strings, but the first film featuring his unique vocal stylings. As Buster Moon, a koala who throws a singing competition to save his failing theatre, the Oscar-winner does an a cappella version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s earworm “Call Me Maybe.”
Before the warbling, however, comes the story of Moon’s show business aspirations. As a child he saw Miss Nana Noodleman (Jennifer Saunders) live on stage and immediately fell in love with the theatre. So much so that he, with the help of this father, saved up and purchased the theatre with dreams of becoming an impresario. Trouble is, he isn’t much of a showman. Filled with passion but short on talent, he staged flop and after flop and by the time we meet him he’s dodging calls from his bank as he tries to figure out a way to pay the mortgage. “None of your shows have worked Mr. Moon!” says Judith from the bank. “Better settle your account by the end of the month!”
His great idea? Throw a singing competition with some of the city’s best undiscovered talent and pack his place to the rafters with people willing to hear them sing. It worked for “American Idol,” so what could go wrong? How about an arrogant lounge singing mouse (Seth MacFarlane) with ties to some nasty underworld bears? Or a stage struck elephant (Tori Kelly)? Perhaps an ill-conceived stage design involving hundreds of shrimps and thousands of gallons of water?
Featuring 85 hit songs from the 1940s to the present day, “Sing” also contains a brand new track by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande called “Faith” and good messages for kids about not letting fear get in the way of the things you love, never giving up, about following your dreams. It’s a frenetic package that zips along very quickly you hardly notice it’s a ninety-minute movie stretched to a two hour running time. The songs—many of them earworms that will linger for hours after the end credits roll—pad out the action, prolonging the inevitable happy ending.
Two hours for an animated movie that offers something more than catchy tunes and platitudes is fine. Unfortunately “Sing,” while beautifully animated is too concerned with being a crowd pleaser to be about much of anything. It rises to the level above ‘cute’ on the Animation-O-Meter. Some Pixar level subtext is missing. It’s pretty good eye candy and some giggles but not so much funny stuff as you might imagine in a movie that features a pig in gold lamé.