An animated family comedy is probably the last film in which you should expect 100% accuracy when it comes to nomenclature, but it would be nice if they could at least get the basics right. Early on in Sing, the terrific new musical from Illumination (the studio behind the Despicable Me and Minions films), main character Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) refers to himself as a koala bear. Which, of course, is quite wrong, for as everybody on the planet knows – with the exception of a certain American actor and an English writer-director koalas are marsupials, not mammals – as bears most certainly are.
Small annoyances aside (although for some of us it's a major annoyance because koalas are referred to as bears FAR TOO OFTEN), Sing is a toe-tappingly good time with a great soundtrack and a strong voice - maybe a little too strong, but more on that later. Set in the world of anthropomorphised animals, Sing's plot centres on the aforementioned Moon, who owns a struggling small theatre. As a promotional gimmick he comes up with the idea of having a talent competition, along the lines of American Idol, or The Voice, or Britain's Got Talent ... you know the sort of thing. He plans to offer a prize of $100 for the winner, but a typo on the flyer implies the prize money is actually $100,000 and surprise surprise, he is overrun with potential contestants.
After an extensive audition process, five lead contestants emerge: Mike the mouse (MacFarlane), a smooth crooner who is also quite the conman; timid teen elephant Meena (Kelly), who suffers from stage fright; busy mum Rosita (Witherspoon), who is daily run ragged caring for a lazy husband and their 25 piglets, young gangster gorilla Johnny (Egerton), who is looking to break free of his family’s criminal ways, and punk-rock porcupine Ash (Johansson), who is struggling to shed her arrogant boyfriend and go solo. Each animal arrives under Buster’s marquee believing that this is their shot to change their life for the better.
The big theme at play in Sing is to follow your dreams, believe in yourself and aim for the stars. In this regard it mostly works, but it's not quite as powerful as other recent animated outings such as Zootopia, Moana or the brilliant (and vastly superior) Kubo & The Two Strings. Where Sing really stands out is in the musical numbers - the film features more than 80 hit songs from the 1940s to 2016, so there is definitely something for everyone in there. The best, of course is Seth MacFarlane's tiny mouse belting out big Sinatra hits such as My Way, Come Fly With Me and Fly Me To The Moon, but there is also a lovely rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and a great new track written just for the film, Faith, performed by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande (although the cast all do perform their own songs). Some people will say that, for a film aimed primarily at children, the songlist consists mainly of old numbers - but hey, what better way to introduce the kids to some classic music? And there has to be something in the film for the parents and older viewers to enjoy too.
Speaking of the cast, Sing continues the trend of hiring big-name stars to voice the animated characters – Jennifer Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, John C Reilly, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton - rather lesser-known but more experienced voice actors, such as the likes of Billy West, John DiMaggio, Tress MacNeille, Phil LaMarr, Lauren Tom, Harry Shearer, Alex Borstein ... you get the picture. As with most big animated films nbow, the big-name cast is mainly there for marketing purposes, so they can have the familiar, beloved names on the posters and the advertising. Still, at the end of the day, Sing is cheerful and colourful, lighthearted and inspiring – exactly the film that you expect to see based on the marketing. With great songs, plenty of gags (including the odd fart joke) and the cutest red panda J-pop band you will ever see in a film, Sing is a winner.
How good is the 3D?
Computer animation really is fantastic when it comes to 3D, and Sing is no exception. The 3D is at its best when the camera zooms around the city, checking in on each of the characters in their day-to-day lives, but overall it does add real depth to the film. If you saw Sing in the cinema in 3D, well the experience at home is just as good – clear, crisp 3D with minimal ghosting.
EXTRAS: There are three terrific Mini-Movies (which in my day were called "cartoons"), plus a making-of – Gunter Babysits (3:47), Love at First Sight (4:18) and Eddie's Life Coach (4:16), as well as the featurette The Making of the Mini-Movies (5:56); the featurette The Making of Sing (4:40); the featurette Finding the Rhythm: Editing Sing (2:44); Character Profiles (12:25), which looks at the characters and the actors who voice them, including Matthew McConaughey as Buster Moon, Reese Witherspoon as Rosita, Tori Kelly as Meena, Taron Egerton as Johnny, Nick Kroll as Gunter, and Garth Jennings as Miss Crawly; the Music Video for the song Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing (3:11); the featurette Making a Music Video with Tori Kelly (2:52); a Music Video for Faith (2:46); a Lyric Video for Faith (2:49); a Lyric Video for Set It All Free (3:40); and the featurette The Best of Gunter (1:03).