By Richie Angel
“Everyone in the city gets a shot at being a star live on my stage!”
True to its concept of eclectic musical celebration, Sing features a cast with diverse musical backgrounds: from Reese Witherspoon, who played June Carter Cash in Walk the Line, to Taron Egerton, who would later play Elton John in Rocketman; from actors you didn’t know could sing, such as Scarlett Johansson, to singers you didn’t know could act, like Tori Kelly of American Idol fame. The result is a charming Golden Globe-nominated hit.
Sing follows Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), an irrepressible theater owner who starts a singing competition with a $1,000 prize, hoping to drum up enough revenue to stave off foreclosure. Unknown to Moon, however, the flyer goes out with a typo, promising $100,000 to the massive crowd of auditioners, including Rosita (Witherspoon), a stay-at-home mom who still hasn’t given up on her dreams; Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a crooner in trouble with the mob; Ash (Johansson), a teenage punk rocker trapped in the shadow of her self-absorbed boyfriend; Johnny (Egerton), the softie son of a gang leader; and Meena (Kelly), a natural talent with a bad case of stage fright.
Up to this point, I haven’t mentioned that the movie is animated, nor that all of the characters are anthropomorphic animals—Buster Moon is a Koala, Rosita is a pig, Mike is a mouse, Ash is a porcupine, Johnny is a gorilla, and Meena is an elephant. But that’s because they don’t need to be. Unlike just about any animal-based animated movie, nothing in Sing necessitates its medium. It’s just more fun this way. Standing alone, this film is refreshingly simple while maximizing entertainment value through a variety of showcases and the underlying awareness of the characters’ personal journeys—exactly the way modern syndicated talent shows have established their appeal. And while the “misunderstanding” premise implies a predictable formula (they prepare the show, Moon discovers the typo, he sweats, the group learns about the deception, they abandon him, he wallows, they come back and deliver a show-stopping performance), it is until it isn’t. The movie has something to say, and it utilizes familiar beats to subvert the finale into a promising moral.
By the time the lights dim for the finale, the stakes are surprisingly low, and it’s touching. Reminiscent of a lesson spoken by McConaughey in We Are Marshall, the important thing is not the prize but simply getting up on stage and just doing the thing. It’s a powerful message for all musicians, from newcomers who need the courage to get their feet wet, to those who hung up the guitar long ago and aren’t sure if they’re allowed to pick it up again now that the calluses have faded. Just play the show. Just sing.
Sing honors every genre equally, heartwarmingly concerned with each performer growing into the best version of themselves no matter the prize. And that’s why every musician should watch Sing.