“Sing” bills itself under a single promise: cute animals will sing cute pop songs. On that, it delivers. The only exception is your proclivity for such a thing. For many, it will be immensely adorable; by the time the German pig is wearing a leotard dipped in glitter, your head will explode into a scattering of gumballs, jelly beans and rainbows. For others, that won’t happen. You know who you are.
We’re introduced into this world through Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a theater loving—and theater owning—koala bear. With a name like “Buster Moon,” anything outside of show business would be a terrible waste. Due to a string of box-office disasters, Buster’s finances are firmly in the red. As cartoon animals often do, Buster hatches a scheme. In order to save his theater from closing, he will have a talent contest, the winners of which will perform in the show to end all shows, bringing respect and paying customers back to his theater. His initial grand prize for the contest is $1,000, which quickly becomes $100,000, due to a clerical error by his receptionist, Ms. Crawly, a batty old woman—chameleon, actually—whose glass eye proves more trouble than its worth.
Among the contestants are a host of colorful creatures, both in personality and hue. Of them all, I took a liking to Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a rat-pack reject who happens to be a mouse—why not make him a rat? You can find him in his natural habitat, the street, playing the sax for spare change. At one point, a guy flips him a penny—filling his mouse-sized sax case—but Mike isn’t satisfied, so he shakes the guy down and publicly humiliates him. After Mike makes some cheddar, he purchases a sports car, which is exactly like a human sports car except for its high seats.
This got me thinking: if this is a world of animals, why is everything built around human physiology? Doors have handles, when a good portion of the animal population doesn’t have opposable thumbs. A restaurant that Buster visits has an aquarium, which raises a lot of ethical questions. The film has fun with this a few times, such as Buster having to communicate with a giraffe by using a megaphone. “What was that?” is the giraffe’s perennial response.
As far as the plot goes, it’s your standard fare of good-will and lessons that end in “be yourself,” but everything serves the ultimate purpose of having a digital porcupine lip-sync rock songs. I guess kids are desensitized to talking animals, so now animals have to sing. I can’t say I enjoyed the music in the film, most of which I only vaguely recognize from car commercials and grocery store intercoms. Even the songs I do know and am a fan of, such as Leonard Cohen’s oft-covered “Hallelujah,” are performed in such a way that I found showy and off-putting. Although, watching a gorilla belt out Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” while his father breaks out of jail has its silly pleasures.
“Sing” has personality, but personality doesn’t win talent competitions. And I think, of all people, Buster Moon would agree.
3 out of 5 stars