Up until now, Illumination Entertainment and Universal Pictures have had a lot of commercially successful films, thanks to the Despicable Me franchise and, most recently, The Secret Life of Pets. But compared to their latest effort, Garth Jennings' Sing, they really haven't landed a film that both manages to entertain and emotionally resonate to the extent that this picture does.
Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) has fallen on hard times. The theater he'd always dreamed of running is not making enough money to justify staying open, and as such he has creditors chasing him down from every angle. Yet when most others would give up, he decides to go all in and throw a singing competition. Many audition, but few make the cut, which leaves the competition down to a handful of contestants who have their eyes set on various prizes of their own.
In a year full of some of the finest animated product we've ever seen, Sing manages to stand out as it's neither a franchise nor a typical children's film. There's no material objectionable to the kid audiences that'll see it, but the film does manage to work with some themes that are better suited for a more mature audience. But Jennings manages to work those themes into his latest film effort as keenly as he has in past works like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Son of Rambow. While the film does start off a bit slow and disjointed, the overall picture begins to tighten up as it goes along, making for an extremely pleasing final product.
The mix in material only further stands out when compared to the rest of Illumination Entertainment's line up, as Sing is probably their most ambitious film in terms of storytelling. While Despicable Me did bask in the warmth of parenthood, it discarded that for more comedic energy in its second outing. Not to mention, Minions and The Secret Life of Pets don't even come close to the emotional weight that the first Despicable carried. Yet with Sing, Illumination seems to have found its footing again, as the comedy doesn't outweigh the actual joy of seeing these characters live their dreams, and vice versa. We can laugh with these characters, while at the same time actually caring about where they end up in the end.
Of course, this is not just because of the story we're given to process, but also the particularly brilliant casting that was done, as the roster is filled with vocal talent that can actually sing. Nowhere is this better scene than in the third act of the film, where all of our main contestants get a big musical number towards the end of the film, and the result is the sequence that clinches the film's message of displaying ones talent for all the world to see. Though particular notices should go out to Taron Egerton and Tori Kelly, as both are granted quite possibly the best pair of show stoppers towards the end of the film. Also, you get to hear a Koala with Matthew McConaughey's voice singing Call Me Maybe, so if that doesn't grab you, there's plenty of other material out there to enjoy. Though don't let the mention of random contemporary Pop scare you, as the soundtrack is made up mostly of new renditions of classics from the 70's and 80's, with some of the stuff the kids love mixed in for flavor.
With the embarrassment of riches that the animated world has this year, it's no surprise that Sing was one of the few nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature. It's the rare jukebox musical that finds a way to make sense of switching tracks at a rapid pace, without letting any story beats get lost in the shuffle. More importantly, it's a musical about following your dreams, and fostering a community of dream makers, so that they may continue to bring happiness to all. That's a message we could all use this time of year, and Sing should go down as "the other brilliant musical" we got this December.