Sing is a harmless movie that manages to charm its way to some emotional pay offs. It’s not as good as it could be, but for what it is, it’s fine. Although, I must confess to feeling a little watery eyed from time to time.
This may have to do with the plot of the movie: A rag tag group of amateur performers band together to put on a show to save the grand old theater. I love this trope. Despite having zero experience with the theater or music, I love this particular story idea.
Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) is the koala bear theater manager. His theater, The Moon, is struggling. Show after show of his has failed or flopped. The stage hands or at the door, the bank is on the phone, and they all want the money Buster owes them.
It’s then Buster hits upon an idea. An idea so great it will save the Moon theater. He will hold a singing competition with a grand prize of one thousand dollars. With almost no help from his friend Eddie (John C. Riley), a spoiled rich Sheep, Buster soldiers on. His secretary Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings), a lizard, prints out the fliers for the competition. Due to a faulty glass eye she accidentally changes one thousand to a hundred thousand and we’re off to the races.
Well not really. The movie drags more than it races. It’s a jukebox musical. None of the songs are original so much as people repurposing already existing songs or just covering songs. With exception of a song Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a young punk porcupine, writes, called “Set It All Free”. The odd thing about Sing is that the music really doesn’t matter much.
Oh sure there’s lots of it and there’s surely a soundtrack to buy. It’s just the emotional punches that do land do not come from the people singing. They come from the characters themselves. The prime mover of all this is McConaughey’s Buster Moon. His Buster is a beacon of pure optimism and sheer diligence. I found my mind wandering from time to time; yet whenever Buster was on-screen I found myself watching the movie.
The movie doesn’t cover any new ground. Well maybe it does if you’re a kid. I found the story most interesting when it focused less on the songs and more about the emotional realizations and overcoming the obstacles within themselves.
Take the subplot with Johnny (Taron Edgerton) and his father (Peter Serefinowicz). Johnny wants to be a singer and his father wants him to follow in his footsteps as the leader of his gang of thieves. Johnny makes a choice that leads to his father being arrested. Johnny’s father disavows Johnny. It’s not until his father sees him singing on television that he realizes what he’s done. The movie cuts to his father’s face. Then it goes to a POV shot of his father prison window. He can see the stage lights on the other side of town. The movie then cuts back to his father’s face.
There is more pain and regret on this animated gorilla’s face than almost the entirety of Passengers. Then there’s a particularly painful moment between Meena (Tori Kelly), a shy elephant, and Buster, as he hits the most vulnerable spot in her psyche. The characters in Sing are not the most complicated, but they are surprisingly messy and human at times.
The movie never rises above the level of ‘cute’ but it has its moments. For a kid’s movie, you could do worse. It knows what it is and after seeing Passengers that’s refreshing in of itself.