In a world of anthropomorphic, talking animals, Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) is an eternally optimistic koala who owns a small theatre. Unfortunately, his last few shows have not been very successful and the theatre is in danger of being shut down for lack of funds. Luckily, inspiration has struck him with an idea for a new show: a singing competition. After his secretary (Garth Jennings) accidentally lists $100,000 as prize money rather than the $1,000 he actually has, the whole animal city shows up to audition. The eventual cast for the show includes a domestic housewife pig named Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), an English-accented gorilla named Johnny (Taron Edgarton), the punk-rocker porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson), the Frank Sinatra-singing mouse Mike (Seth McFarlane), Rosita’s German-accented pig dancing partner Gunter (Nick Kroll), and an elephant with severe stage fright named Meena (Tori Kelly). But can this group overcome their various personal problems so that the show can go on?
There are two primary things to note about Sing. First: it’s a pretty gimmicky movie. Second: for such a gimmicky movie it’s actually pretty entertaining. For the first point, this entire film is basically if the characters in Zootopia went on American Idol, an analogy completed by the fact that nearly all the film’s musical numbers are covers of Top 40 pop songs from the last five years or so. All of them except for the Sinatra songs by McFarlane, and the occasional classic rock song peppered here and there. The pessimistic part of my brain revolts against the very concept of this movie as a cynical cash grab, and I'm sure that this movie will make an absurd amount of money, not just from itself but also through sales of its soundtrack.
However, I will also admit that Sing is far more entertaining than any movie about singing animals from a B-grade animation studio has any right to be. Regardless of your (or my own) opinion regarding the selections of songs in the movie, all of the voice actors perform them very well. McFarlane was already a known quantity from his time singing Sinatra on Family Guy, but the others prove their own singing chops as well. The film as a whole tough, like most of Illumination’s releases, does still suffer from lower quality compared to films of the Big Three. The fact that this comes out the same year as Zootopia shows how much more effort Disney puts invests in characterization and world-building in a world about talking animals. Zootopia felt like a fully-fleshed out world with complex, interesting characters inhabiting it, while Sing is solely a platform for a karaoke musical with talking animals.
But like I said, at the end of the day Sing is surprisingly entertaining, all things considered. It’s certainly not for everyone, and don’t go into expecting another Zootopia. But if over the holidays you have some small kids who want to go to a movie, you could do worse than seeing Sing. Just be aware they’ll be begging you to buy the soundtrack afterwards.