Thursday, July 6, 2017


While Illumination Entertainment is best known for their Despicable Me franchise, they have also worked on a few other projects unrelated to this series. Relevant to this review, between the release of the Minions spin-off and the recent Despicable Me 3, the studio released two movies within the same year, The Secret Life of Pets (Pets) and Sing; this review is about the latter of these two films. Admittedly I hesitated to watch Sing at first due to a dislike of Pets, but I decided to finally watch it while on a flight as part of my in-flight entertainment and ended up liking it better than I thought I would, more so than the aforementioned Pets.

In a Zootopia-like world, a koala named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) is trying to attract customers to his fledgling theater, deciding he can bring in more animals by holding a singing competition with a grand prize of $1000. Due to a typing error by his assistant, Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings), the prize is instead listed on the flyers, unbeknownst to Moon, as $100,000. Amongst the flood of attendees to the auditions, this attracts the attention of Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), a housewife pig trying to raise 25 piglets; Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a self-centered street performing mouse with major debts; Johnny (Taron Egerton), a gorilla son of a mob boss; Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a porcupine performing in a punk rock duo; and Meena (Tori Kelly), an elephant with stage fright.

Though the movie has 1 main plot with 5 sub-plots, they manage to be balanced fairly well, since the sub-plots all tie into the main plot in some way. Each of the main characters is written decently for whatever screen presence they have, plus the overall story is still fairly easy to follow for how stuffed with plot it is. The animation and voice acting are some of the best to come from an Illumination production, which help sell the premise and the trials that each of the main characters are going through; in particular, I didn’t even realize that Seth MacFarlane was voicing one of the main characters, as I had come to expect his voice acting to sound like one of his Family Guy characters.

Rather notably, the movie features 64 songs, one of which is an original song, “Faith,” performed by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande. All of these songs are present to varying degrees, most of which are snippets, though they are used well in their appropriate context. Two recurring songs during the movie include “Golden Slumbers” by The Beatles, acting as the leitmotif for the different points in Moon’s story; and “Kira Kira Killer” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, performed by a group of recurring Japanese red pandas. When major songs are performed in the movie, the voice actors take the opportunity to display their singing talents, which evidently seemed integral to the casting process.

Sing is one of Illumination’s better non-Despicable Me movies, beating out The Secret Life of Pets in terms of overall quality. Though there is a large amount of plot stuffed into ~90 minutes, the movie still manages to balance everything well, perhaps better than the later Despicable Me 3. The 60+ songs featured in the film are sure to attract different types of music fans just to hear their favorite song. Those disappointed by Pets may find this to be a better example of how Illumination can handle a movie that’s not related to Despicable Me, though those looking for an enjoyable animated feature should still give this one a try. Things seem to be looking up for Sing since a sequel has been announced for release in 2020 (though I’m personally not as enthusiastic about a Pets 2 announced for 2019).

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