Directed by Gareth Edwards
I feel insulted. Writer/director Garth Jennings (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) must have read somewhere that famous people singing covers of popular songs would be a guaranteed formula for box office success. Buster Moon, the slimy and unlikable koala voiced by Matthew McConaughey, suggested at some point early in the movie that America could use another singing competition. That’s why he decided to hold auditions, in a last-ditch effort to save his failing theater. Well, he was wrong. So was Jennings. Twelve years ago, in the heyday of “American Idol,” “The Voice” thought there was a need for more shows that pitted amateur singers against one another for money (at the time, they were right). Back then, “Sing” would have felt relevant and fun. Now, after “American Idol” ended without anyone noticing, with “The Voice” trying anything to keep an audience and “America’s Got Talent” joining it in creating a television oligopoly of amateur talent that more than likely will never make anything of themselves, “Sing” does not strike the chord it hoped to.
Releasing shortly after “Moana” delivered beautiful, revolutionary animation, a message-driven story, and a soundtrack full of original songs, “Sing” lazily comes along borrowing songs from a decades-long songbook, to create a warm and fuzzy family movie that offers no discernable message (maybe “You can do anything,” but an argument can be made that every movie ever made says that). It would have been better off with original songs (though it does give us one very cookie cutter rock-pop jam and a fun Stevie Wonder/Ariana Grande duet in the credits) or a story that wasn’t so boring it felt like a total waste of a stacked cast (besides McConaughey, there’s Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Nick Kroll, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Hudson, Leslie Jones, etc.).
“Sing” also shows a frustrating tendency of treating female characters horribly. Apparently animal society is stuck in the ‘50s—the women are either timid pre-teens, housewives with ungrateful husbands, crabby old queens, or arm candy who hardly have any lines. Of course, some of these problems are remedied by the end of the movie, but only once the women have done something to deserve men’s affection/attention. “Sing” is also surprisingly unrealistic, even for a movie about talking animals. Physics don’t matter here. Neither do characters with personalities or relatable motivations. There’s a reluctant criminal, a Rat Pack-era wisecrackin’ mouse, a seemingly out of place German sequined pig, a group of Japanese red pandas who don’t understand English. They’re all plucked out of thin air. There’s no thought behind it. In “Zootopia,” the fact that there’s a rabbit in the police force is a plot point. She’s small, non-threatening. Having sloths work at the DMV is hysterical. In the world of “Sing,” though, there’s no such thought. “Sing” is a poor excuse for an animated movie. Adults will find themselves bored. And even if the kids get a kick out of it, couldn’t they be watching something more memorable and meaningful? Like, almost any other animated movie this year? Listen to the soundtrack on Spotify, but the paper thin plot they constructed around the music couldn’t be less convincing.