Following on from the success of Despicable Me, and the lukewarm acclaim of Secret Life Of Pets and Minions, Sing is the next animal-heavy animation from Illumination Studios. Although the film doesn’t quite hit all the right notes, there’s some good ideas here and its frustrating to see, once again, a cohesive solid plot is the Studio’s biggest downfall.
Before I continue – there are minor spoilers in this review that I feel are crucial to the overall justification of my score. If you haven’t seen this film, you won’t be missing much but some of these points do give key plot points away. This review is also a little longer than the other’s I’ve posted here.
The film follows Buster Moon, a Koala who will do absolutely anything not to lose the rights to his failing theatre after releasing a slew of failed hits. His one final roll of the dice before he loses his theatre for good, comes in the form of a singing competition where he invites animals from all over the town to compete for their chance to win $100,000 (a figure which, by a series of mishaps, Buster cannot afford to pay the contestants)
The first hour or so of this film is excellent, the tension is there, the competition is on and each of the five main contestants are given sufficient screen time and a justifiable reason for wanting this money so badly. A mouse (Seth Macfarlane) with raw talent feels he can make an easy sum of money by underestimating the other contestants. A shy elephant (Tori Kelly) with an incredible singing voice and a horrible case of stage fright, plays the dark horse angle. An overworked pig mother with 25 children longs for that one life changing big break. A gangster gorilla who’s crime loving Father resents his son’s singing tries to break free of the family crime business to pursue his passion in singing and a punk-rock, turned pop chick porcuine (Scarlett Johannsen) make up the rest of the main cast to compete for the prize money.
The story, for the first hour or so, plays well. There’s some good jokes and clever auditions poking fun at talent shows and parodying a wide range of different songs that make this a real joy to watch. The big twist comes in the form of all the contestants finding out the money is a complete lie and that there never really was a prize fund. Instead of the initial anger and resentment the majority of these desperate animals would presumably experience, sacrificing their family and life to audition for days on end, they all offer to perform for free after the theatre is repossessed by the banks.
None of the characters seem particularly bothered by the lack of a prize fund and their initial reason for wanting the money disappears in favour of doing it for the love of music. Whilst this is an endearing message, as soon as this revelation occurs the film loses any sort of dramatic tension and suspense that came before it, devolving into a feel good sing song which, although very nice, undermines the entire reason for the competition and character backgrounds in the first place.
The acting and animation though are on point. Although many won’t notice, the lighting and the particular effects with the CGI water are extremely well done and very realistic. The actual effects themselves and lip syncing with the speech are also on point as has come to be of expected of Illumination.
It’s just such a shame that the film took the twist it did at such a crucial time. Had this revelation come at the end of the film, after the competition and the people in each of the five contestant’s lives come together to see off their character arcs, it might not have had quite the same negative impact it did before. Each of the characters learnt a valuable lesson; people realize they do love the theatre after all and Buster Moon redeems himself, learning what must be done to keep the punters happy. Unfortunately this isn’t what happened.
To summarise, Sing is a frustrating film for me to review because on the one hand, it does so much right. The film is funny, the animation is really well done as is the acting cast and dialogue. Once again though, its the same story for Secret Life Of Pets as it is here, the characters don’t have convincing journeys, nor are they utilised effectively to make them feel anything more than walking cliches. Unfortunately for Sing, this is nothing short of average at best due to the frustrating story and questionable character choices.