Theatre can be fun, hip, and original. But when you don’t have Lin Manuel Miranda on speed dial, inspiration (and a catchy storyline) has to come from elsewhere. But wait! If the cast is so gifted, why not get them to organize the performance? Sing is a talent show with very little planning and mythical prize money – plus a few of the stars are total hams – but it’s not every day you get a house mom, a getaway driver, a moody teenager, and a… Gunter working towards the same goal. Now if the building would stop falling down and the lights could stay on, we might have enough time for advertising, ticket sales, and piano lessons.
Sing proves that animals can do more than police the streets of Zootopia; they can clearly carry a tune, too — although they may not be the best businessmen. Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) owns a classic theatre downtown, but sales have been slipping as of late. To save the theatre (and pay his hydro bills) Moon decides to host a singing competition prompting ordinary animals from across the city to line up for a shot at their big break. Faced with an anxious herd of vocalists, Moon and his assistant, Miss Crawly (voiced by Garth Jennings), carefully select the show’s stars and, among them, the potential winner of $100,000. Wait – $100,000?? The very old Miss Crawly, whose glass eye pops in and out like a paddle ball, accidentally lost sight of Moon’s intended total and added on a few extra zeros. Now Moon has to figure out how he’ll raise the cash, how he’ll keep the performers happy, and how he will literally hold the walls together in time to sell enough tickets to save his business. Deep breaths.
Moon may be the keystone to the whole fiasco, but each character comes with its own list of personal problems: Rosita (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) has 25 kids and an inattentive husband; Ash (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is clearly more talented than her jerkface boyfriend; Mike (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is a cocky mouse in trouble with some very large bears; Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) is massively shy; and Johnny (voiced by Taron Egerton) hates the family business. At least Gunter (voiced by Nick Kroll) seems to have it all together. Sing gives each character enough screen time to lay down their problems, showcase their insane talents, snag each one with a life-hiccup, and then wrap it all up with drama and flare. The result is fun, but a little crowded. Moon is the only one who gets a decent backstory since his character holds all the rest together; without the theatre manager there is no theatre, no tickets, and no show. But, ironically, I cared about his character much less than some of the others.
Even with less screen time, I was happy with how the supporting stories unfolded. We’re told just enough to care about the performers’ problems equally, and cheer when their dreams finally come true. I’m totally sold on the gangster gorilla and the heartbroken teen with lethal hair projectiles, but the mouse… Mike the mouse’s story felt like interference. He’s a mean character that croons his way out of his comeuppance. Sure his voice is like a smoky, red velvet cushion under a steaming bowl of stew, but what about Mike’s money troubles? He gets mixed up with the wrong animals and is subsequently chased around and around until we’re all dizzy and the mess just disappears.
But screw the mouse – he’s arrogant and I ain’t got no time for that. What I do have time for is the singing. Sing’s auditions made me laugh and cry at the same time. Imagine a sheep baaa-ing in the middle of Seal’s Kiss from a Rose. Or a mean-looking gorilla pour out Sam Smith on the piano. They’re all amazing and I want the soundtrack, but lord did I get chills from Meena, the bashful, stage-frightened elephant singing Hallelujah. It was a speechless moment. I only wish her grand finale was more of a song and less of a vocal riff parade.
Sing is a feel-good movie. It’s not perfect (Moon owes so much money he should be in jail, the theatre steals an unsubtle amount of electricity from the neighbours, and it seems unlikely that auditions would start before the competition was fully hashed out), but man does Sing make you happy. I’m adding this to my list of soundtracks to scream at my windshield on road trips. There are more than a few loose ends left untied, but I walked out feeling happy and I do believe that’s all that matters. I also think the kids sitting in front of me left considering careers in show-biz, and how is that a bad thing? Sing is delightful, eccentric, sparkly, and a 7/10.