Review: Second animated feature from Illumination Entertainment (the studio who brought you Minions and, recently, The Secret Life of Pets) in 2016 brings tons of happiness and a whole playlist ranging from the 80s to recent hits in SING, an absurd blend of X-Factor and lots like Zootopia. While the plot is muddled and the comedy is outdated, most elements in SING really works. Just work.
The plot is pretty basic, juxtaposing a generic restoring the good ol’ day quest and formulaic zero-to-hero storyline. There’s an enterpreneur, a koala named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) with minimum koala-fication to actually run a theater. His business collapses and he’s tangled in debt; to save his business (and his theater), he proposes an X-Factor-esque singing competition with total $1000 prize… initially.
Accidentally, Buster’s assistant, the hundred-year iguana, Miss Crawley (Garth Jennings), adds two extra zeros making it $100,000 as the flyers fly out of the window reaching every corner of the zoo-tropolis. While it’s an instant magnet to either town’s most-famous gold-diggers or just some animals trying to prove their worth with their voice; it’s also an unforeseeable disaster for Buster.
SING benefits and at the same time suffers from having too many characters to highlight. There’s Buster and his rich sheep comrade, Eddie (John C. Reilly) and they don’t stop. There’s Buster’s singing contestants too, including a piggy mom, Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), who attempts to bring her good ol’ glory; a flamboyant trickster, Mike (Seth MacFarlane); a lady rock-cupine, Ash (Scarlett Johansson); a part-time criminal gorilla, Johnny (Taron Egerton); a shy elephant, Meena (the incredible Tori Kelly); and many others.
Thing is, for three-fourth of its duration, SING tries to accommodate those contestants’ underwritten backstories simultaneously as the main plot, (let me remind you) Buster’s quest to restore his ol’ glory, progresses. Result is, the plot is muddled and cramped with patches from those supporting characters that barely affects the main quest. The more those animals dabble into their own problem, the more the story-building sinks, as if it is destined to be that way. Practically, there’s only one feel-good moment, i.e., the audition scene with series of animals showing snippets of their jingle-jangles, giving you a time-warp in form of songs. (P.S.: they include Crazy Town’s Butterfly and some Minion-esque gibberish Japanese idol group).
Yet, who knows that Garth Jennings’ screenplay expects it? The whole doomed-from-the-beginning narrative cramped with dumb plot points and annoying characters is deliberate and, I wholeheartedly claim that, it works just great.
The whole messed threads and muddled storytelling for approximately 70 minutes get paid off in its zany, merry-making finale where all the ‘surviving’ contestants show off on stage. The finale is super loud and super fun as it gonna make you wanna dance and clap (unless, you’re already fed up after exposed to mess for more than an hour).
From an unpredictable beats from Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off to a Heli-distracted Frank Sinatra’s My Way, straight to Stevie Wonder’s Faith with Ariana Grande voice, SING really sings out its finale into a daft, infatuating open-air music performance benefit froms Illumination’s smooth rendering of the background and lighting.
In the end, a 70-min mess and a 30-min hit is a summary to Garth Jennings’ SING. While it can’t live up its potential to be a fascinating animated musical, it at least saves a bit of joy in the end.
Animation, Comedy, Drama Directed by: Garth Jennings, Christophe Lourdelet Written by: Garth Jennings Voiced by: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, John C. Reilly Runtime: 108 mins Rated PG