Based on an extremely enthusiastic pig called Rosita, the animated movie Sing focuses on an ensemble cast preparing for a talent show. They mistakenly believe they are competing for a vast amount of money in this surprisingly lovely film that has tons of heart.
When you have a large number of characters and a somewhat generic framing device (talent show) the movie lives or dies by how successfully you can invest in each character’s journey. For the most part, Sing does this well. Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) is a stay-at-home mom who wants to break free of the routine. Ash (Scarlett Johansson) is every talented woman who is kept under the thumb by an arrogant and sexist man. Meena is a big elephant girl who is painfully shy. And in typical ‘X-Factor’ style, has the most angelic voice by far.
In particular, there are strong emotional hooks from big ape Johnny’s relationship with his father. Johnny's family are criminals and expect him to follow in their footsteps. His passion is music but his fear of letting down his father is done with just the right amount of both bite and love. In fact, the prison scene in which this comes to a head has caused my lip to wobble on every viewing so far! Similarly, ringmaster Buster’s (McConaughey) motivation is to do justice to the dream that his father had. He just wants to make the historic theatre venue a modern success.
Buster’s tale is the core of the story. As the linchpin of a talent-based movie, he is wisely pitched just right. He isn’t a Simon Cowell ‘mean’ type. Despite the lie, he is a permanent optimist, who genuinely encourages the best out of everyone. However, one very sharp piece of grit in this otherwise lovely movie is that of Mike, played by Seth McFarlane.
Mike stands out as a character with no characterisation whatsoever. He serves only as a vehicle for insult-based humour that stands out like a sore thumb. He doesn’t learn. And the movie never brings him to task. So Mike’s constant fat shaming, verbal and physical threats, and treatment of women as disposable adornments is left unchallenged. It’s like someone wanted a slice of that Seth McFarlane pie and just squashed it into a movie where it didn’t belong.
This grating misstep aside, ‘Sing’ takes a well-worn framing device, some relatable characters and uses the power of music, combined with genuine reliability to shine the whole thing up delightfully. You’ll leave the movie with a smile and wanting to be the best version of yourself. The way that 2019 is going, a message of self-empowerment is a very welcome thing.
Words by Michael Record