It is easy to dismiss a film like Sing if one was to merely judge it by its marketing. By all accounts the popularity of singing competitions has run its course. Sure, shows like The Voice are still on the air, but they lack the national obsession that American Idol first garnered when it began its shocking 15 season jaunt back in 2002. Audiences have since turned their attention from wannabe star hopefuls to star-driven live adaptations of beloved musicals. Even Sing acknowledges this early on when a character, upon hearing the idea of a singing contest, laments “who wants to see another one of those?”
Of course, what naysayers like this fail to realize is that it is not the competition that draws people in, but the talent. The sheer artistry and transcendent beauty that comes when a singer touches our soul with only their voice is breathtaking. This is something that lackluster producer Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) understood from an early age. Inspired by trips to the theatre with his father, the not-so-savvy Koala has spent his life trying to bring music to the masses via his numerous failed theatrical productions. Racking up a mountain of debt, Moon decides to put on a singing competition in hopes of generating some quick cash for his rundown theatre hall. However, when his secretary accidently prints a $100,000 cash prize on the brochure, rather than the intended $1,000 prize, Moon quickly finds himself in a jam when hundreds come out to audition.
It is here where the true heart of directors Christophe Lourdelet and Garth Jennings’s film shines thorough. Playing with the conventions normally associated with televised singing competitions, including taking a brief delight in the tonally challenged individuals who always seem to show up at auditions, Lourdelet and Jennings introduce a cast of characters that the audience cannot help but cheer for. There is the underappreciated house wife and mother Rosita (Reese Witherspoon); the teenage girl, Ash (Scarlett Johansson), whose sexist boyfriend refuses to see her talents; the crooner Mike (Seth McFarlane) who gets in trouble with the mob while trying to impress a lady; the son, Johnny (Taron Egerton), who does not want to follow in his father’s criminal path; and the shy teenager whose insecurities keep her powerhouse voice bottled up.
Each of the five competitors, and Moon himself, ultimately play into Sing’s overall theme of not letting fear, or outside forces, stop you from doing what you truly love. While the message itself may be simplistic, it works well for this charming film. Aside from its frequently funny moments, Sing works because it truly understands its subject. Unlike other films that take satirical jabs at the American Idols of the world, take American Dreamz for example, Lourdelet and Jennings care deeply for both their characters and the music they sing. Openly embracing everything from Frank Sinatra to Sir Mix-a-Lot without an ounce of cynicism, the film’s overall warmth is as infectious as the tunes themselves.
A surprisingly refreshing comedy that entertains all ages, Sing is a true treat. Do not be surprised if you catch yourself humming many of the songs on the way home.