Funny thing about dreams: Everyone has them, yet so few actually achieve them. At least not permanently.
Take Buster Moon, for instance. At the tender age of 6, the koala bear fell in love. The object of his ardor? The theater. Buster found himself mesmerized by the operatic prowess of one Nana Noodleman, a singer whose voice was a thing of captivating, wondrous beauty. So much so, in fact, that lil' Buster decided right then and there that he would one day own the theater where he'd heard her sing.
One day years later—thanks to the hardworking support of his faithful father—Buster's dream came true: He purchased the hallowed thespian establishment.
Alas, seemingly fulfilled dreams can be slippery things. And Buster's mostly-ignored theater is now smack up against those proverbial hard times. He doesn't have the cash flow to pay grumbling stage hands after the theater's latest box office bomb. He can't make mortgage payments, either. It looks as if Buster's dream is on the verge of going to an early grave.
But necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. Or at least imitation. So Buster hatches a desperate brainstorm: stage a singing competition for everyone in his palm tree-dotted metropolis, a last-ditch attempt to generate interest in his failing venue.
"A singing competition?" his best friend (and Nana's trust-fund coddled grandson), Eddie, says skeptically. "Who wants to see another one of those?" Buster remains undeterred: "Real-life talent," he gushes grandly. "In real life!"
So Buster scrounges up his last $935 and instructs his long-suffering, one-eyed iguana assistant, Miss Matilda Crawley, to type up some brochures offering a cool grand to the winner of his competition. (He figures he can scrape up the other $65 somewhere.)
Miss Crawley dutifully types it all up. Then her one fake eye pops out on the keyboard, adding a couple of zeroes to the prize-money brochure—without her (or Buster) noticing—right before the office's oscillating fan accidentally disperses the flyers throughout the city.
In a flash, the dreams of animals across town are suddenly, unexpectedly energized.
There's Rosita, a housewife pig and mother of—wait for it: 25 piglets—whose endless domestic responsibilities and utterly self-absorbed workaday husband, Norman, leave her longing for something … more. Johnny (a stylish, leather-wearing gorilla) is being groomed by his gangster father to do more than just drive the getaway car after heists; but all Johnny wants to do is sing. Mike the mouse has a Sinatra-like voice as big as he is small, with an outsized rodent ego to match. Meena is a teenage elephant so shy she can barely even audition. And Ash is a punk rock porcupine whose boyfriend, Lance, just coldly left her for someone else.
All of these yearning, singing souls (along with scores of other mostly mammalian hopefuls) converge on Buster's dilapidated old theater, American Idol-style, much to his surprised delight.
But a much bigger surprise awaits almost everyone when they discover that Buster's prize package is actually a couple digits shy of what was promised on the brochure—a realization that threatens to cruelly crush all of their fragile dreams.
Though it's not a Disney film, Sing nevertheless requisitions the Mouse House's perennial theme of persevering in the pursuit of your heart's desire. We repeatedly hear the phrase, "Dream big dreams!" Meena's father tells her, "Be confident!" Likewise, Buster tries to coach Meena through her crippling stage fright, telling the paralyzed pachyderm, "Do what you love. Then you won't be afraid anymore. Because you're actually doing it."
For her part, Rosita has essentially zero support from her always-working, always-napping, never-cleaning husband. But she hangs in there, too, as do the rest of the film's main characters.
Early on, Buster brims with confidence despite his misfortunes. He tells his bestie, "You know what's good about hitting rock bottom, Eddie? There's only one way to go, and that's up." Later, a distraught Buster learns that rock bottom is actually a lot lower than he initially thought, but Eddie brims with the same kind of upbeat optimism Buster once embodied. Other contestants seek to cheer Buster up, too.
Johnny has a tense relationship with his father, Marcus. But when the older gorilla sees his son performing on TV (after Marcus has been jailed) he breaks out of the clink and races across town just to hear Johnny sing and to tell his son, "I'm so proud of you!" Though Marcus's simian jailbreak obviously isn't a good thing, he willingly returns to his confinement after Johnny's performance.
Several songs include passing spiritual references. We hear a Sinatra-esque snippet of "Pennies from Heaven." A version of Cat Stevens' tune "The Wind" says, "Where I'll end up, only God knows." Bananarama's song "Venus" includes the lines, "Goddess is on the mountaintop/Burning like a silver flame." Meena belts out Leonard Cohen's iconic "Hallelujah," and we hear the lyric, "I'll stand before the Lord of song with nothing on my tongue but hallelujah."
Three female rabbits wiggle and waggle their backsides suggestively, singing these actual lines from Nicki Minaj's exceedingly racy song, "Anaconda": "Oh my gosh, look at her butt."
Though Ash is just a teenager, it's implied that she and Lance are perhaps living together. At the very least, he has a key to her apartment, and she comes home one day to find him flirting with another pretty porcupine named Becky. Mike successfully woos a rich, pretty female mouse.
For the show, Rosita partners with a flamboyant, German-accented pig named Gunter. He wears a skin-tight leotard that Rosita comments shows a lot of "skin," and he does something like a striptease to reveal his outfit. Rosita—a mother of 25, remember—isn't as sensual as Gunter is. He coaches her, "Let the music take control of your body parts." Rosita eventually takes his advice and dons a similarly "revealing" outfit for the duo's performance, much to her husband's wide-eyed porcine amazement and approval. (He gives her a big kiss afterward.)
Elsewhere, a leotard-clad frog has an effeminate accent. Visual gags involve Buster and Eddie wearing Speedo swimming suits as they wash and buff cars with their bodies. Eddie does a hip-thrusting dance.
Slapstick peril and pratfalls abound, but no one ever really gets hurt. A bursting water tank fills a building with fluid, momentarily trapping animals who look as if they might drown before the structure essentially explodes from the pressure and spills them (drenched, but otherwise unharmed) onto the street.
Several reckless car chases careen through the city, causing accidents. Menacing bears threaten to eat the mouse Mike (and nearly succeed twice).
Multiple characters fall from great heights and get accordingly banged around. A light rig crashes on one unfortunate animal, who (in an unexpected nod to realism) is taken away in an ambulance. When Ash the porcupine gets really worked up, she tends to throw her quills, which end up embedded in Buster's face as well as in members of the audience. (A llama suffers the most harm.) A slug gets stepped on. Buster's tossed out into the street.
Crude or Profane Language
We hear six exclamations of "oh my gosh," two of "holy moly" and lone unfinished utterances of "oh my … " and "what the …" Someone is said to be "artsy fartsy," while another character is dubbed an "old fart." Gunter calls someone a "total super-jerk dinkleschplatt." Other name-calling includes "stupid," "fool" and "bozos."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Several scenes take place in a swanky dance club that pictures various well-hoofed animals imbibing what look to be martinis and other mixed drinks. A joke is made about someone's asthma inhaler being illicit drug paraphernalia.
Other Negative Elements
Buster repeatedly tries to dodge his financial obligations, including paying his stagehands and repaying a bank loan.
Marcus and his gang pull off two heists. The second of those lands that group of guerilla gorillas in jail—mostly because his son, Johnny, abandons his role as the getaway driver in order to go sing. Marcus cruelly tells Johnny (via a jail phone), "How did I end up with a son like you? You're nothing like me. You never were, and you never will be." Johnny then tries (unsuccessfully) to steal the supposed $100K prize money in order to post bail for his dad.
While busking with his saxophone, Mike accosts someone who says he doesn't have any money to contribute. Mike shakes the poor man down and essentially steals a wad of cash from the distraught bystander.
Mike also gambles with a group of ill-tempered Russian bears who are apparently Mafioso. He's grabbing a pile of cash he's won from them when they notice an ace hidden in his jacket. The disgruntled grizzlies spend the balance of the movie trying to catch the cheating mouse, who's often speeding away in a red, Ferrari-liked sports car that he financed after deceptively telling the bank he was on the verge of getting $100,000 (the prize money for the competition that he hasn't actually won and which doesn't actually exist).
A nervous animal in one scene loudly passes gas five or six times. There are also nose-blowing gags.
Sometimes you walk out of movies thinking, "Well, that wasn't what I was expecting at all."
Sing is not one of those movies.
Sing is exactly what you would expect if you've seen the trailer: a lighthearted and inspiring American Idol-style singing competition between animated, anthropomorphized animals. Just like that genre-defining show, each contestant here harbors dreams of singing, and each has the obligatory dramatic or hard-luck backstory. In the end, we're invited to root for them all.
Like most animated flicks these days, there's a whisker of bathroom humor and a hair of suggestive material. Animal flatulence jokes will no doubt get the little ones giggling, even as Mom and Dad roll their eyes a bit.
It's all in the service of that Disney-style ideal of following your heart. Keep dreaming, the movie says. Keep hoping. Never give up, and never give up on your friends. Parents, of course, know that there may be some instances where such starry-eyed counsel is unrealistic. But then again, this is a movie about singing animals, so we probably don't need to overthink that one.
One area we might not think to think about, however, is the music and musicians represented here. While none of the featured songs are terribly problematic, they do come from a broad range of secular performers with other material that is, such as Katy Perry, Sam Smith, Lady Gaga and Nicki Minaj. And youngsters who imitatively Google the latter's lyric "oh my gosh, look at her butt," are in for decidedly not-so-innocent shock.
Still, that's probably the biggest caveat for an otherwise fun film, one that inspires us to hold onto our dreams and that doesn't assault us with a theater-full of age-inappropriate material along the way.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Voices of Matthew McConaughey as Buster Moon; Reese Witherspoon as Rosita; Seth MacFarlane as Mike; Scarlett Johansson as Ash; John C. Reilly as Eddie Noodleman; Tori Kelly as Meena; Taron Egerton as Johnny; Nick Kroll as Gunter; Nick Offerman as Norman; Garth Jennings as Miss Matilda Crawly; Peter Serafinowicz as Marcus; Beck Bennett as Lance; Leslie Jones as Meena's Mother; Jay Pharoah as Meena's Grandfather; Jennifer Saunders as Miss Nana Noodleman; Jennifer Hudson as Young Nana Noodleman; Rhea Perlman as Judith
Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet ( )
December 21, 2016
March 21, 2017