Saturday, December 31, 2016

Sing Review

It's American Idol with animals! Sounds like the absolute perfect idea for a movie, right? No? OK, if I'm being perfectly honest, I thought "Sing" looked really dumb. All the trailers focused on were the audition phases of an American Idol type of music competition with anthropomorphic animals. That's it. Was there any plot? Was there going to be any substance to this at all? I mean, I know Illumination is on a roll financially with their last three movies all making over $300 million domestically, but there last outing, "The Secret Life of Pets," was a movie that I found really dumb. Needless to say that in a crowded holiday season, this was super low on my list of movies that I wanted to see. But as family tradition of seeing a movie with all the nieces and nephews on Christmas Eve rolled around, I realized that this was our only option. So as the movie guru of the family, I submitted and made the suggestion, hoping that the kids would love it and that perhaps it would be serviceable for the adults. And, well, while 2016 has given us a lot of big duds, we can chalk this one up into one of the surprises of the year. I found myself actually enjoying this movie as I was watching!

So what is this movie really about? Because as I said, all the trailers focused on were the auditions of all these animals. In an odd turn of events, these auditions were like five minutes of the movie towards the beginning. That's it. In order to make sure I don't forget anything, I actually had to take notes on all the main characters because if I have it right, this movie has seven main storylines interconnecting in one giant maze of a movie. Our main storyline is of a koala named Buster, voiced by Matthew McConaughey, who is really high on himself, but in reality kinda sucks at life. He was inspired by to get into the music business by this famous singer that blew him away and thus I believe he ends up purchasing the city's main musical hall and is in charge of putting on all the plays and musical productions. Or something to that effect. Despite his best efforts, it's a business that he's really not cut out for as everything he puts on is a big failure. It's so bad that he has earned like no money and the bank is trying to foreclose on the theater and possess it if he can't pay his debts. In a last ditch effort, he decides to put on a musical competition that he thinks is going to blow the city away and his plan is to offer $1,000 to the winner because that's all he has.

Well, as it turns out, his clumsy assistant, an iguana named Ms. Crawley, voiced by Garth Jennings, accidentally types up the reward as $100,000 and all the papers get blown into the wind across the city without the knowledge of Buster. The next day Buster is rather shocked and excited to see practically the whole city lined up at his theater for this competition. In the meantime we have the story of Rosita the pig, voiced by Reese Witherspoon, with her family of 25 little piglets and lazy husband who does nothing but work. We also have the story of Mike the mouse, voiced by Seth MacFarlane, a street performer who is super cocky and thus gets a lot of people mad at him. We have the story of Johnny the gorilla, voiced by Taron Egerton, who's dad is in a street gang that he is forced to be a part of. We have the story of Ash the teenage porcupine, voiced by Scarlett Johansson, who has a jerk boyfriend that is over-controlling. We have the story of Meena the elephant, voiced by Tori Kelly, who is a phenomenal singer, yet has stage fright to the extreme. And we have the story of Eddie the sheep, voiced by John C. Reilly, who is Buster's best friend and is kind of a loser without a life who still stays with his parents and has little desire to actually find a job. Got all that?

Yeah, this movie is kinda packed with story. It's almost targeted at the people group of people who can't focus on one specific storyline for longer than five minutes as it keeps bouncing around to all of these people and stories. And should I mention that in either supporting or cameo roles we also have Nick Kroll, Peter Serafinowicz, Beck Bennett, Leslie Jones, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Nick Offerman, Bill Farmer, Adam Buxton, Brad Morris, Wes Anderson, Chris Renaud, Edgar Wright and a whole lot more? In a weird way, though, this actually works. I found myself invested in all of these different stories and characters. Even though we bounced around a ton -- I would've been fine with slowing things down and maybe only having half as many storylines going on -- I thought the movie did a decent job of balancing everything and making you care about everyone. Each of the characters has a very different story and background and each of these stories teaches a different message that can be valuable to young kids. Sure, from the moment each story is introduced you know exactly how it's going to turn out, but being that this is a kid's movie, but they did a good enough job with the stories that a predictable plot is forgivable. We don't need crazy twists in a kids movie.

If I were to point out one major flaw, I would say that this movie isn't necessarily a super memorable movie as it does kinda wonder for the majority of the run time. In a perfect scenario, if you are making a kids movie, you want it to be a movie that will entertain the kids from beginning to end and cause them to want to watch the movie on repeat once it comes to DVD because of how entertaining it is. And if you want to be on perfect Pixar level with your movie, you will also find a way to touch and inspire adults as well. For a good portion of this movie, I think this hits a black zone where it's not super entertaining for the kids and is not really memorable for adults. The opening sequences with the auditions were a huge hit with all the kids in the theater. But then we set up so much story that we don't have enough time to do all the fun musical stuff and thus we have a story heavy plot because we have so many stories to catch up on. In my personal observations, there was a long period of time where I heard no laughs or excited reactions from all the kids in the theater. Thus I feared that this might be a boring movie that none of them liked or will want to watch again. On the adult front, I was kinda getting bored, too. I found myself wanting more musical stuff and less story.

Then we have the saving grace of the movie. The finale. All things considered, I don't think it's a spoiler to say that this movie ends with a big, knockout performance from all of our stars. I mean, we have freaking Tori Kelly as one of our main characters. You know she is going to sing. I'm honestly not sure if Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, Scarlett Johansson and Nick Kroll did their own singing. But their characters they voice spend the whole movie preparing a piece. If they didn't perform at the end, this would be a really dumb movie. We do go typical American Idol style where the preparation video shown is of all the failures and obstacles and magically everything is perfect when they get on the stage to perform. But eh. It's whatever. I think it was five big numbers we get and all of them were fantastic. This was honestly one of the most rewarding finales from an animated movie all year. As someone who loves music, I was super entertained by this concert we got at the end of the movie and I think the movie did a pretty good job of tying a nice, pretty bow on all of our main storylines. It gave it enough of a good touch to make me pleased.

Overall, if you're looking for a family-friendly movie to take your kids to, "Sing" is a pretty good option. It has an entertaining beginning with a great setup to all of our characters and a phenomenal ending. It sets up so much story that for much of the middle of the movie it spends time doing justice to all of the stories it set, thus for a while it loses all of its audience. It probably would've been better off cutting some of the storylines and spend more time with animals singing. As is, it's only a musical in the very beginning and the very end. But I think the finale and the intro are good enough to leave a good impression on both kids and adults. Also, as a fair warning, your kids might walk out singing, "Oh my gosh, look at her butt." That was an unnecessary part of the audition phase. The rest is super kid friendly, though. And all in all, in seeing these movies, I do my best to observe how the kids reacted and in talking to my nieces and nephews afterwards, I honestly think they had a good time. I don't think anyone had their mind blown, but I think this is a movie that did it's job and in my opinion is Illumination's third best movie behind the two "Despicable Me" movies. I'll give "Sing" an 8/10.

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