By Katie Gigout
Edited by Carl Cottingham
Illumination’s newest animated comedy Sing, directed by Christopher Lourdelet and Garth Jennings, promised to be inventive and humorous but falls flat on both accounts. The film is set in a world that is entirely inhabited by animals and follows the story of a koala bear named Buster Moon. Moon owns a failing theater that he not only wants to save, but transform into an overly successful venue. To save his investment, he decides to host a singing competition, offering $1000 to the winner. However, his older assistant accidentally types $100,000, causing headaches for not only Buster but also all of the competitors, many of whom are suffering their own personal crises.
Given the marketing and the ideas behind Sing, I don’t doubt the audience expected something much grander than what was actually presented. The narrative has much promise but it is unable to deliver. While the singing competition and the events that surround it are interesting, the film’s actual story is quite lacking. Buster Moon’s ‘never give up’ attitude is obviously positioned as the center of the film, but is lost by the slowness and shallowness of the plot. Indeed, the problem with Sing is that it follows far too many characters, causing the audience to be unable to seriously identify with any one character because they are unable to learn much about them. The audience wants to connect with the overworked mother, the misunderstood son, and the shy teenager, but it has a hard time doing so. The audience will either not fully understand the characters or find an unfulfilling resolution to their storylines.
Perhaps my main problem with the film stems from the fact that it was poorly marketed. The trailers and posters promise humor and excitement, yet the film loses its comedy because of these marketing tactics. Many of the film’s scenes used for the trailers are reused more than once. This sense of repetition is a problem, as most of the comedic moments were already shown for marketing purposes. By the time an audience sees the film, they will have already seen and known all of the jokes without having seen the finished product. This repetition also causes problems with the suspense and excitement of the film. The audience expects to see dozens of acts throughout the voice competition portion of the film. However, once the audience has seen the trailer for the film, they have already seen the entirety of the auditions and much of the actual competition. There is an attempt to add suspense to the audition process, but it is far too slow and dull to become engaging. The film was predictable and the outcome was expected. What little suspense that is in the film builds up to a flat climactic moment.
There is one small highlight that Sing has a talent for: the voice acting done by Matthew McConaughey. McConaughey does bring a realness and roundness to the Buster Moon character, instead of the flatness that could have been used had this been another celebrity voice actor. McConaughey reveals the true emotions of the character by only using his voice. He is able to depict Buster’s fears and hopes by tonal expressions. In that respect, there is something encouraging to be had with the film.
In comparison to the other animal based animated films that came out this year, like Zootopia or even Illumination’s own The Secret Life of Pets, Sing is subpar. The film attempts to inspire children and people of any age to chase their dreams no matter what; to pursue even when obstacles arise. While the film genuinely has a good premise, it has a slow-moving plot with an anti-climactic ending. With multiple shallow storylines and far too many characters, the audience has a hard time connecting to and empathizing with the cast.