Written and directed by Garth Jennings, ‘Sing,’ this year’s umpteenth film about talking animals, has more heart than you might expect.
It does, however, have its share of cringe-inducing moments, especially if you unabashedly hate pop music like I do. Being the cynic that I am, I thoroughly expected ‘Sing’ to be a soulless amalgamation that was coldly derived from the success of ‘Zootopia’ and mainstream culture’s strange obsession with singing-based competitions. And it is, but it is also more than that. The movie is well written and well directed, and it has enough wit and charm to keep the entire family, not just the young ones, entertained.
‘Sing’s’ appeal to a broad family audience is firmly centered on its use of relatable character tropes that tug at the heartstrings. For example, there is a down-on-his-luck koala, who tries one last time to restore his business to its former glory; a Gorilla, who wants to earn his father’s approval to chase his dream, rather than follow in the old man’s footsteps; an elephant, who needs to overcome her own lack of confidence; and a punk-rock porcupine, who just wants to do her own thing. In fact, almost every character in the film is a clichéd incarnation of the Everyman, complete with a predictably sentimental character arc that gets resolved, in one way or another, through the power of family, or the magic of friendship. Admittedly, this is perhaps an overly complicated and analytical way of thinking about a movie made for children. It may be easily digestible, overly sentimental, and uninspired, but all the film needs to do is keep you and your hypothetical children entertained for an hour and fifty minutes. And that it does.
The biggest strength of ‘Sing’ is the comedy, which was designed for universal appeal. While it is certainly corny at times, there is a surprising lack of toilet-humor, and even some sparse adult jokes hidden beneath the wholesome veneer. Funnymen Seth MacFarlane and Nick Kroll shine as the film’s comedic relief, and are expertly cast as a means to entice adults into seeing the movie. The real triumph, however, lies in the slapstick and physical comedy made possible by animation. Because physical comedy does not rely on the nuance of language, it resonates with children and adults, native and non-native English speakers alike.
It would be impossible to talk about ‘Sing’ without mentioning the singing. The selection of music is more varied than I expected, and it is perfectly tailored to the radio-listening audience. While the music certainly did not thrill me, I liked more of it than I thought I would, and the other, less curmudgeonly moviegoers seemed to enjoy it all. The singing itself showcased the musical prowess of the film’s talented cast, and the voice acting in general was a highlight of the film for me.
‘Sing’ is ultimately derivative and clearly engineered for mass appeal; however, the tried-and-true tropes and formulas are expertly weaved together to create a charming, funny, and entertaining movie. While it is no ‘Zootopia,’ which is doubtless the new standard for talking-animal flicks, ‘Sing’ will provide an enjoyable experience for you and your hypothetical children.
Photo courtesy of Facebook
‘Sing’ opens December 21st