In my last article, I mentioned that Sing was another attempt by Illumination Entertainment to be Pixar, and failing at it, and I still stand by that statement. This to me has been the studio’s major flaw in how it makes it’s animated films. Well, that and the ungodly amount of advertisements and commercialism that are insufferably disproportional to the actual quality of its overall work. But it bothers me from a writing standpoint when I see something trying so blatantly to imitate more successful and more talented works. They’ve been more in-your-face about it before with Secret Live of Pets being an obvious, yet poor, attempt at the buddy-comedy scenario done masterfully in Toy Story. In a movie like Sing, I could see that they were trying to pull similar heartstrings as most Pixar films. This time they actually put forth some time and effort into the backgrounds of their characters and their woes, which should be praised. However the predicaments that we find our characters in are rather cliche and the outcome of their arcs, predictable. The above trailer should be captioned as “spoiler-heavy”, however, I really don’t think it merits such a warning since from the introduction of all of the movie’s personalities, we know what is going to happen by the end of the film. Overall, Sing was an okay watch – not bad, but not especially good either, and certainly nothing new.
As I said, the characters were moderately well done. There was definitely more effort put into them than some of their previous fare, so let’s talk about them. First we have Buster Moon, who is the optimistic koala who runs a singing competition in order to save his failing theater, that was a gift from his deceased father. There is Eddie the sheep, who is Buster’s best friend. He is part of an incredibly wealthy family, but does nothing with his life and leaches off of his rich parents. They are joined by 6 main singers. There is Johnny, a gorilla who is trying to gain approval from his father. Rosita the pig is a worn-out mother of 25 and trying to prove to herself that she can do more than just be a housewife, and who is paired up with the exuberant dancer Gunter. Ash the porcupine is a young teen who likes to rock out, and who is trying to step out of the shadow of her ex-boyfriend and prove that she can create music, too. Mike the mouse enjoys jazz and classical music, but spends the movie being an arrogant asshole. And finally Meena is an elephant who has a great voice, but whose shyness prevents her from singing. The endings for the singers are rather obvious (SPOILERS, I guess?) – Johnny has a heart-to-heart with dad, Rosita makes her husband notice her, Ash successfully makes a name for herself, Mike has a short moment of humility, and Meena sings (roll credits, also END SPOILERS). I guess it is the size of the cast that caused each of their story-lines seem so cut and paste, so I am a bit impressed that they managed to do what they did with the time and the amount of characters that they had to deal with, yet it is because of this that I wasn’t really able to relate with any of them.
The only character moments that I thought were done decently well and were fairly unique were Buster’s and Eddie’s. Buster’s optimism worked strangely well with his somewhat underhanded means of trying to keep his theater afloat. He was optimistic, but wasn’t going to just sit there and hopefully let things work themselves out. It was fun to see all of the schemes he did behind the scenes to make things work. Eddie being the lazy one, but also the straight-man to Buster’s enthusiasm, worked well, and I enjoyed the moments when the two were together. You really felt like these two guys had known each other for a long time and were good friends without the movie beating you over the head with that fact like it did with the other characters’ personality traits. When things went bad for Buster, I actually felt sorry for him. And I felt happy when Eddie came to try to pick Buster’s spirits back up. Too bad this movie spent so much time poured into grabbing the audience’s attention with cheap song-related gags.
This brings up a huge issue with the movie. No matter what deeper or character-defining moments the movie had (which as I said were few and/or predictable), they were all kind of washed away by the pressing knowledge that this movie was built on grabbing our attention with popular songs. It was like if Glee made a movie, but with singing animals and with a larger attempt at a cash-grab, and without any of the heavier themes. I mean, just go and watch the trailer again and count how many popular, catchy songs are in there. That’s where the humor is, and that is also where the money is. Admittedly, it is effective. I must say I liked much of the music, and the final performances by our cast are rather hard to dislike (I was definitely singing Elton John’s “I’m Still Standing” after Johnny’s performance). But a part of me feels like some of the songs and some of the gags are going to feel incredibly dated within the decade. With the exception of some of the more timeless classics, I predict that this movie is not going to age well.
That is where Sing fails. It’s not going to be a classic. It’s not going to be as timeless or as unique as Pixar. But that’s because while it is trying to be like Pixar, it’s not trying to be the things that makes Pixar films great. It’s forgetting to do something new, and it’s focus seems to be much more on the box office than being an actually good film. And you can do both. I’m not going to shut down a studio or a movie just because it made a lot of money (if I did that, then I would certainly be criticizing Disney and Pixar a lot more). Plenty of studios which I previously didn’t hold a lot of stock for, like Dreamworks animated films, have been impressing me lately with their skill and the time they put into their stories and animation. Other studios, like Laika and movies like Storks have entertained me with their uniqueness and their choices to tackle movies with their own style of humor or animation. But to me Illumination Entertainment and movies like Sing don’t do this – they continue to try to copy past greats, choosing to, quite literally, sell catchy sound-bites rather than decent films. Sing provides a decent enough viewing and is harmless, but its voice isn’t going to be heard throughout time like a countless amount of better animated movies.