Illumination Entertainment isn’t exactly known among adults for high-quality entertainment. Which is understandable, since half of their movies surround Minions and one of the others is Hop. It’s kind of like Dreamworks when they had just released Flushed Away, Shrek the Third, and Bee Movie. But Illumination’s newest movie, Sing, is definitely a step up for the flowering animation studio. It’s the all-ages fun film we needed amidst all of the serious winter titles.
Sing tells the story of koala Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), the owner of a once-proud musical theater whose last slew of shows have left Moon dodging calls from his bank. In his bright optimism he plans a singing competition show using local talent to try and save his theater. This local talent includes stay-at-home pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), professionally trained mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane), son-of-a-mobster-gorilla Johnny (Tarron Egerton), punk-rock teenage porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), and stage-frightened elephant Meena (Tori Kelly). All of these characters show up to audition when Moon’s senile secretary iguana (Garth Jennings) prints fliers promising a prize of $100,000.
It’s these characters that really make the movie shine. They all start out in dissatisfied states; Rosita thinks she’s lost her dreams in the hustle of real life, Johnny has to balance his family’s plans for him with his own secret ambitions, Ash loves a boy who shadows over her, Mike is jobless despite all of his talent. While none of these stories are particularly original by themselves, the combination creates a story of a real community. The optimism with which they all enter the singing competition is refreshing, and the diverse fears they face as they go through the competition adds more dynamic to the story.
Moon himself is a great character. McConaughey does a great job putting energy and life into the little smooth-talking koala. It’s very fun to watch his unwavering drive, which is clearly associated with his love for performance. If you’ve ever worked in performances as talent, planner, or stage hand, you’ll especially enjoy watching his antics as he tries to prepare for the show.
The other acting in the movie is pretty good, as is expected from big names like Witherspoon, MacFarlane, and Johansson. The dialogue acting isn’t anything particularly special, after all, it’s just voice acting. The actors do an excellent job of fitting into their characters, you can even forget completely who the actors are. The real gem of the voice acting is the singing, which is excellent. It perfectly fits the tone of the movie at every point.
The same kind of thing can be said for the animation. It doesn’t do anything particularly groundbreaking, and the animals don’t look quite as good as they do in Disney’s Zootopia. But it’s still the clean animation we expect from a triple-A animation studio. The movie also uses a lot of clean colors and simple textures to make a bright atmosphere throughout the movie. The times the animation really shines through is during the big musical pieces. The amazing showmanship that Moon is trying to create comes into fruition in these scenes with beautiful backdrops, beautiful costumes, excellent camera angles, and great music. Several of the songs even manage to be pretty emotional, despite most of them being remixes on pop favorites. The way the movie uses musical scenes to drive the emotional development of the characters and carry and supplement the story kind of reminds me of Pitch Perfect. Except that the humor doesn’t require laughing at stupid characters and the music actually feels real.
Sing is a good movie with some great moments. Everything it does is the quality you would expect from a good animated movie, and some of the things it does are better. The story is just so enjoyable because it’s simple, hopeful, and fun. This might not be a movie you’re going to go back and see three or four times, but it’s definitely one you should see once, and it’s definitely one I’m going to remember ten years from now and say “That was a great movie.” Kind of like Sky High or Space Jam. I should go rewatch those.