Reviewed by: Blake Wilson
facing your fears, lest they stop you from doing things that need to be done or things you love
animals in the Bible
music in the Bible
|Featuring:|| Matthew McConaughey … Buster Moon (voice), an optimistic koala
Reese Witherspoon … Rosita (voice), a domestic pig who gave up her teenage music dreams to become a devoted wife of Norman and mother to 25 piglets
Seth MacFarlane … Mike (voice), a small white crooning mouse with a big Frank Sinatra-esque voice and an arrogant attitude
Scarlett Johansson … Ash (voice), a crested porcupine punk rocker who takes part in an alternative-rock music group with her boyfriend Lance until she rejects him for cheating on her with another crested porcupine
John C. Reilly … Eddie Noodleman (voice), a Suffolk sheep and Buster's partner
Tori Kelly … Meena (voice), a teenage Indian elephant with an exquisite voice and severe stage fright
Taron Egerton … Johnny (voice), a Cockney-accented mountain gorilla who wants to sing, but his father wants him to follow his criminal footsteps
Nick Kroll … Gunter (voice), a domestic pig and Rosita's German-accented, optimistic and bubbly dance partner
Nick Offerman … Norman (voice), a domestic pig and Rosita's workaholic husband
Leslie Jones … Meena's Mother (voice)
Peter Serafinowicz … Big Daddy (voice), Johnny's gang leader father who wants him to follow in his business of crime
Rhea Perlman … Judith (voice), a brown Llama from the bank
Jennifer Hudson … Young Nana Noodleman (voice)
|Director:||Garth Jennings—“The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” (2005), “Son of Rambow” (2007)|
|Producer:||Hammer and Tongs
Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) is down on his luck. The bank is on the verge of repossessing his father’s theater, his staff is claiming to be underpaid, and the theater itself is kinda old. Trying to figure out a way to get things back on track, he decides to do a singing competition to try and bring the crowds back out.
The original prize is labeled $1,000, but thanks to an error by his lizard secretary Mrs. Crawley (voiced by the director, Garth Jennings), it gets out that the prize is $100,000. People line up, including a few hopefuls with stories of their own. Rosita (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), a mother pig of 25 piglets hoping to sing again after stopping her singing career in favor of raising a family. Mike (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is a self-centered gambler who has a Sinatra-style crooner voice.
Then there’s Ash (voiced by Scarlett Johansson), a Porcupine rock singer trying to make it, along with her boyfriend. Johnny (voiced by Taron Egerton) is a gorilla who’s father is a master criminal, and wants to try and step out of his shadow. Finally, Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) is a shy elephant who wants to sing, but suffers from a major case of stage fright.
One of the main messages of “Sing” is not to let fear stop us from reaching our potential. Meena learns to overcome her fears, and toward the end of the film, Buster reveals he is fearful of the future and doesn’t want to go for it anymore. It says in the Bible 365 different times, “Do not fear,” and the Scriptures remind us how fear is not from God. Isaiah 35:4 is an interesting example here:
In addition to that, the movie reinforces the idea of how money and materialism should not be a guiding force in what we do for a living. With the exception of Mike, the entire cast of the singing show comes to realize that the competition is much more than just the prize. It’s for showing their talent and for the sheer joy of doing it. Buster even says, “It’s not for the prize, they are singing for them.” Ecclesiastes talks about this more, in general:
After Buster hits a rough spot, and his error is revealed, his own cast comes to check on him and to figure out what they can do to help him get back on his feet. Meena even makes him a cake to cheer him up. The very idea of the other characters putting aside their self-focused ambitions to help out and care for someone else, even if he may not be the most enjoyable person, is a very positive theme that Mark 12:31 makes very clear:
The second most important command is this: “Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself. These two commands are the most important.”
In addition to that, Eddie (voiced by John C. Reilly) is a true friend to Buster. He willingly sets aside his own personal plans to help Buster when he is in need. In the meantime, he also isn’t afraid of expressing honesty to Buster’s crazy-ish plans. And in the midst of the craziness, he makes time for him and sticks by him. This kind of friend is the kind Ecclesiastes encouragestoo:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. —Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Adult Content: A few mild suggestive jokes make their way into the script, but most of them don’t go too far. One somewhat annoying audition gag has three bunnies twerking to the tune of Nicki Minaj’s very inappropriate song, “Anaconda.” They rap, “Oh my gosh, look at her butt!” once or twice. A flamboyant pig named Gunter (voiced by Nick Kroll) sheds a tight sparkly suit to reveal a leotard that Rosita comments, “reveals a lot of skin.” The character is somewhat effeminate, but is merely in the film for laughs. Gunter tries to encourage Rosita to let the music “take control of her body parts,” and she later dons a “catsuit” of sorts. It is hinted that Ash and her boyfriend live together, but it’s never discussed, and we never see them embrace or even kiss. We do see Rosita and her husband kiss once. Mike woos a female mouse. Buster and Eddie are seen only wearing Speedos once or twice to wash cars.
Violence: Some slapstick violence and peril. One small animal is implied to have been stepped on. Someone trips and falls on stage. One character is threatened and nearly eaten a couple of times by three intimidating bears. ***SPOILER*** Water floods the theater, and nearly traps/drowns a handful of characters. It floods the road, and characters are swept away. The same theater then crumples to the ground. ***END SPOILER*** Ash tosses her quills on unsuspecting audience members and friends. Buster is thrown out into the street. We see the result of a car accident, and nearly witness one or two others.
Drugs/Alcohol: One stray joke is made when a character sees an asthma inhaler (“what do you smoke out of this?”). We see mixed drinks at a club.
Language: Thankfully, nothing really offensive. “Oh my gosh” and “what the heck?” are used several times. Name-calling includes “old fart” and a “total super-jerk dinkleschplatt.”
Other: Buster lies and manipulates (but later faces the music for his actions). Mike gambles a handful of times, and cheats also. He robs an innocent civilian of his money. He also insults and treats almost everyone in a very mean way. Buster is often very blunt with the contestants. Johnny’s dad and his gang pull off two heists. The father (from a prison phone), upon hearing of Johnny being in the singing competition, verbally disowns his own son (though he does change his tune later). The only toilet humor gag in the film is from a character passing gas twice, due to nerves.
While we don’t hear many lyrics from the songs, the song list includes artists such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, etc. Some parents might need to discuss with their children ahead of time, before they decide to possibly search more for the songs they hear (some of which are not so innocent).
“Sing” is an interesting (if not very original) concept. It showcases songs from today and yesterday, 2010s and the 1970s, and everything in between. I thought it was a fun and memorable tease. And, according to executive producer Chris Meledandri, they had to get copyright clearance for at least 65 songs. That’s very impressive.
I had a ball with this movie. It was as fun as I was hoping it would be, there’s great music (I have the soundtrack) and, at the same time, there’s a well-developed story to support all the music. Most of the main characters are given at least decent development, and just about everyone is perfectly cast. In addition to that, solid messages on selflessness, focusing on personal talent over materialism, and overcoming fear are all nicely-presented and really effective.
That isn’t to say “Sing” is a perfect film. At times, like the talent shows it emulates, such as “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice,” it puts in a few (light) suggestive moments for the adults, but they will likely sail over children’s heads. There’s some bad and inadvisable behavior, but most of it is punished. The negative content, overall, if anything, is only slightly edgier than Illumination’s last effort, “The Secret Life of Pets.”
Due to some of the songs used, I do advise parental discretion for young viewers, as parents may object to some of the playlist. But, for older kids and parents, “Sing” is one of the most fun movies of the year, with some very admirable themes.
Violence: Mild / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: Minor
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.
…A veritable farmyard of fun. …
—Leslie Felperin, Variety
…just charming enough to keep anyone looking for a family-friendly movie option this holiday season happy. The naughty jokes never stray very far from the realm of flatulence, and the sounds coming out the other ends are…surprisingly easy on the ears. …
—Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post
…“Sing” doesn’t reinvent the family animation, offer an original premise or even tight storytelling, but it does deliver hugely likeable characters and a rousing finale. …[3½/5]
—Francesca Rudkin, New Zealand Herald
…“Sing” is relentlessly amiable, and has little in the way of vulgar humor. …
—Glenn Kenny, The New York Times
…It's how these creatures from different walks of life interact while being “trained” by Buster that makes the film so strange and funny. …[4/5]
—Edward Douglas, New York Daily News
…In a year full of talking-animal hits, “Sing” isn't quite as strong a number. It’s a tale that might not be particularly thought-provoking but sure is toe-tapping. …
—Brian Truitt, USA Today
…feels less like the work of an artist burning to put across a deeply personal vision than a slick commercial product designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. …poverty of imagination in the film's shallow characterizations and clichéd storylines… [1½/4]
—Kenji Fujishima, Slant
…As cinema, this isn’t anything I’m too enthused about. As a business triumph, there’s reason to sing its praises. …[3/5]
—Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian (UK)
…You’re either someone who didn’t like “American Idol” at all or you’re someone who loved it and and believed the concept could only be improved upon with the addition of talking cartoon animals. …
—Sarah Miller, Vulture
…It’s like cycling through an extremely basic iPod on shuffle with an itchy trigger finger. …
—Jesse Hassenger, A.V. Club
…“Sing,” like its yearning-for-validation characters, mostly just radiates desperation. …
—Stephanie Zacharek, Time