Film review: Sing

Buster Moon’s worked his entire life as a theatre-producing koala, but now he’s nearly bankrupt. With one last chance to save his career and theatre, he’s got a plan: a live singing competition.

Dec 23, 2016, updated Dec 23, 2016

A typo on the flier raises his budget of $1000 to $100,000 and the animal community flocks to the theatre. Disappointment and success ensue, as does, typically, a heck of a lot of singing.

Riding on the wings of American Idol, America’s Got Talent and The Voice (programs which have all found homes in Australia, as well as in other countries around the world), Sing could easily have crashed in a heap of clichés and pop tunes – which it nearly does. However, writer Garth Jennings, who also directs the animated film, does something exciting in giving equal space to the five contestants (the German pig doesn’t get a guernsey, as he’s the classic joker in the mix) and to Buster Moon.

Trading in cheap laughs and a fast-paced plot for a multi-character-driven narrative is risky business (imagine if Toy Story gave as much space to Mr Potato Head, Slinky Dog and Hamm as it did to Buzz Lightyear and Woody), but Jennings takes the time to develop his characters’ backstories and their personalities in a quiet, almost melancholic way, so that each is unique and demands to be cared for. This ensures that when the film takes a predictable turn (No! It’s not going to work and Buster’s going to lose the theatre! Lose everything! And they’ll all lose their dreams of being a superstar!), we love that the gang pull together and we especially love that everyone wins.

Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson are the voices of Rosita, an overworked mother of 25, and Ash, a feisty teenage rocker, respectively. They’re strong roles, making the females in this film strong role models.

Tori Kelly is Meena, the elephant so shy she leans toward suffering from severe anxiety, making her role of huge-animal-overcoming-debilitating-circumstances another strong female character.

On the flipside there’s Johnny, voiced by Taron Egerton, whose thuggish upbringing contrasts with his dream of performing. I’d love to say that each character projects positivity to our children, but Mike the mouse (Seth MacFarlane) is deplorable from beginning to end, which ultimately gives a surprising balance to the cast.

The obvious montage pop-song sequence will have the kids dancing in the aisles and the older songs by Bowie and Freddie Mercury, Leonard Cohen and The Beatles will have the grown-ups lip-synching, because, despite my analytic efforts, the film’s really about music and, ultimately, music’s good fun.

Sing opens in cinemas on Boxing Day.

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