“Don’t let fear stop you from doing the thing you love”.
This quote should be the motto for this film from Illumination which stars the voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Seth McFarlane, among other talent. I saw a lot of animated films in 2016 but this one stands out from the rest. No wonder it’s been nominated for so many awards. The music alone is worth seeing the film.
Buster Moon (McConaughey) is a savvy, conning theater-owning koala. Buster’s main problem is that the theater is failing and it’s his dream to keep it alive. So he drums up a great idea of holding a singing contest for publicity. Unfortunately Buster doesn’t have much to offer for prize money but he figures he can scrounge up $1,000.
Unbeknownst to him his incompetent assistant Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings) inadvertently adds two zeros to the amount of the prize money when creating the fliers. Before Buster can even review what she’s printed, the fliers are blown out a window and scattered all over the city.
Before he knows it Buster is faced with auditioning everything from frogs to elephants. We meet Rosita (Witherspoon), an overworked pig housewife and mother of twenty-five piglets. There is Gunther, a German pig and dancer-wanna-be. Ash (Scarlett Johansson) is a temperamental guitar-swinging teen-age porcupine. Mike (McFarlane) is a shady Sinatra-like mouse. Johnny (Taron Egerton) is a young gorilla with a beautiful set of pipes stuck between a rock and a hard place. And Meena (Tori Kelly) is a teen elephant who doesn’t realize beauty of her own voice.
Throughout the rehearsal process each contestant is met with their own obstacles: boyfriend break-ups, problems with getting a sitter and trying to figure out how to be at rehearsal and also help dad with his next crime. In addition Buster ends up facing his own issues with the old theater, possible foreclosure and eventually the revelation to his contestants that there is not $100,000 up for grabs. Barely $1,000.
Without giving away too much, the film concludes with a joyous celebration of success for all.
Not to be missed in this movie is the great music, particularly Stevie Wonder’s “Faith”, Rosita and Gunther singing “Shake It Off” and Johnny’s version of Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing”. Ironically three songs are heard in the movie from artists we lost in 2016: “Wake Me Up (Before You Go-Go)” is briefly heard when Eddie (Buster’s friend) answers his phone; “Under Pressure” is heard during a montage scene and Tori Kelly sings a spine-tinging rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.
With winter upon us and the holidays over, if you’re searching for a good family film to see, “Sing” would be a perfect fit.
Appropriately, I give it five: