“Sing” is an amusing riff on singing competition reality shows using animated animals — a “Zootopia Idol,” if you will — and it’s surprising that someone hadn’t thought of this already.
The film takes its introductory cues from shows like “American Idol” and “The Voice,” with an all-too-brief audition montage that is jam-packed with wonderful moments (A water buffalo crooning Crazy Town’s “Butterfly”? Twerking bunnies?). It then transforms into a backstage musical that celebrates the magic of putting on a show.
Matthew McConaughey voices theater owner Buster Moon, a koala with a passion for the art of the stage and an overdue mortgage bill for his beloved Moon Theater. He’s a lovable, ever-optimistic guy — and eternal salesman — who believes that when you hit rock bottom, the only way to go is up.
Buster hits on the idea of staging a singing competition, and soon fliers are picked up by every aspiring vocalist in town, lured by the promise of a $100,000 prize (which Buster doesn’t have). Buster is thrilled by the crop of talent he turns up, including mother of 25 piglets Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), who belts Katy Perry with the best; mouthy mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane), styled straight out of the Rat Pack; porcupine rocker chick Ash (Scarlett Johansson); British gorilla crooner Johnny (Taron Egerton); and German techno-rave pig Gunter (Nick Kroll).
Each singer has his or her own personal story and obstacles to overcome, and so the plot feels overly busy, frantic even, as we zip all over town, checking in on Rosita’s struggle to balance raising her kids and following her dreams, Ash’s relationship problems, Johnny’s desire to break free of his father’s robbery gang, on and on. There’s even the story of painfully shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly), struggling to muster the courage to show off her remarkable pipes. It’s a lot to take in, but writer/director Garth Jennings keeps it all on the surface.
As the competition starts to crumble, bearing the pressure of too many dreams and not enough resources, the singers start to realize it’s not about the prize money but about their tight-knit group getting together to show off their talents for whoever will watch, wherever they can. They learn that the most important lesson is to share their gifts and find their voices.
The soundtrack is full of crowd-pleasers and a catchy original song, “Set it All Free,” sung by Johansson. The combination of pop music and cuddly animals will prove to be an addictive combination for children and adults alike. It’s a cute movie with funny moments (keep an eye out for the koala car wash), and some great tunes to boot.
Rated PG for some rude humor and mild peril. 1:48.