Animated animals chase fame, fortune and redemption

Film | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo

3 out of 5

With Disney-Pixar, Laika and (to a lesser degree) Dreamworks operating at a such high level of quality, a new berth has opened in animation: less polished, fluffier and more comedic films aiming to merely please the crowds as opposed to emotionally destroy them. Within this group, Illumination Entertainment is king. The Despicable Me saga (including the spin-off Minions) is a billion-dollar commodity, and a new franchise (The Secret Life of Pets) is shaping up to become a juggernaut.

Illumination’s second film of the year is a tougher sell than Pets, although it shares a similar DNA. Sing is an overloaded, candy-coloured comedy riding on the shoulders of the once omnipresent singing competitions such as American Idol.

The fact these shows are on their way out doesn’t bode well for the film.

The plot: a koala-slash-showbiz impresario (Matthew McConaughey in a weird bit of casting) is days away from losing his theatre. In a Hail Mary maneuver, the optimistic marsupial organizes a city-wide talent audition. A typo on the prize amount brings out every fame-seeking citizen in sight, including a mother of 20 (estimated), an elephant with stage fright, a porcupine whose personality matches her exterior and a mouse with a chip on his shoulder.

Most of Sing’s budget presumably went to pay for the top 10 songs the film features (it’s an embarrassment of riches). While the animation is lacking — particularly next to Zootopia — the comedy lands, particularly some edgy jokes aimed to the adult audience (the koala’s fallback career is more… physical than you would expect).

Overall, Sing is a painless experience. Its message — you have to take risks to reach your goals — is okay for younger kids. Nuances and broken dreams can come later.

Worst case scenario, you get to see a gorilla covering Elton John’s “I’m still standing”.