written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
When it comes to feel good animated movies you will most likely see with your family on Christmas Day, the options are full of possibility… but one choice that could be a winner for kids from 1 to 92 is the delightfully charming Sing starring a cast full of Hollywood pedigree. Matthew McConaughey (those Cadillac commercials), Reese Witherspoon (Legally Blond and the sequel), Seth McFarlane (pretty much everyone on Family Guy), Scarlett Johansson (Avengers, Ghost in the Shell), Taron Egerton (Kingsmen), John C. Reilly (Step Brothers, Wreck-It Ralph), Nick Kroll (from that show with his name in it), and Tori Kelly (YouTube sensation turned recording artist) star in this film about singing your heart out..
Plucky koala Buster Moon (McConaughey) owns a beautiful but struggling theater, after consulting with his sheep buddy Eddie (Reilly), his solution to the financial woes plaguing his beloved theater is to hold a singing competition. Initially sets the prize to a meager $1,000 prize pool… thanks to a bout of clumsiness from his elder secretary, fliers go out into the city instead advertising a $100,000 prize. This draws many animals to his theater hoping to grab a chance at stardom… along with that big cash prize.
While many come to audition, the principle case set to perform are a mix of all kinds of animals from all walks of life. Rosita (Witherspoon) is a pig stuck in a mundane marriage raising 25 kids and a husband who doesn’t seem to notice her anymore. This piggy sports some serious pipes but her stage presence leaves much to be desired, so Buster pairs her with the flamboyant pig Gunter (Kroll) who dazzled the judges with a rousing rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance”. Johnny (Egerton) is a gorilla with dreams of being a singer, but his criminal father would rather he follow his footsteps and join the “family business” than dream of singing on a stage. Ash (Johansson) is a teenage porcupine who initially auditions with her boyfriend Lance (Beck Bennett of SNL), despite being a duo Buster opts only to keep Ash… a fact that doesn’t bode well for her relationship or Lance’s inflated ego. Mike (MacFarlane) is the self-absorbed little white mouse, channeling the spirit of Frank Sinatra to give the cast a smoky lounge singer vibe. Finally, there’s Meena (Kelly) the shy elephant who not only has to overcome her stage fright but also to find the strength within to be the person she strives to be.
While a few of the characters tend to stand out over some of the others, namely Buster, the rest of the cast is represented fairly evenly. While this can spell confusion over the span of 108 minutes, the writers managed to capture a good amount of character development among the entire cast. No spoilers from me, but while each principle cast member has their share of problems, the full film’s runtime is just enough to find a satisfying resolution for all.
There’s a lot of heart here, pretty much all the characters are instantly likable. Normally I find Matthew McConaughey’s characters a mix of creepy and annoying, but his turn as Buster felt so full of heart that I almost forgot that it was McConaughey’s voice behind the lovable koala. My only gripe about the characterization was how they handled Mike. I get it that come the film’s close Mike should have been slightly redeemed for his crappy behavior, but his transgressions through the entire film up to his expression of pure admiration for Meena’s gorgeous voice felt lopsided at best. There’s also a lot of heart in the musical numbers, from Johnny belting a picture perfect rendition of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” to Rosita loudly and proudly singing “Firework” at the top of her lungs. The musical choices were spot on from start to finish, look out for a scene where Meena belts “Hallelujah,” that scene sent chills up my spine and I have no doubts you’ll feel the same.
The theme of finding a sense of self, being strong, and honoring those you love and care for persist across every one of these lovable animals. Buster never gives up on his ragtag bunch of talented animals. It’s a theme that works well for this time of year… believing in others, and more importantly… believing in yourself. Sing is a beautifully animated feel-good film that had me smiling from the first note to the end credits. So when you decide what movie to watch with your loved ones this holiday season, consider Sing if you wanna put your Christmas money on an absolute winner.