Sing

 

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A menagerie of talented creatures enrol in a talent competition to find their true voice.

 

Sing

 

Sing as if your life depended on it. For the characters in this star-laden cartoon, the mere act of singing is all they’ve got to lift them out of the travails of their mundane lives. And like the contestants who harness their dreams of success to such reality TV shows as Pop Idol, The X Factor and The Voice, the competitors here are a varied lot. Even more varied, perhaps. There’s an elephant crippled by shyness, a pig weighed down with her domestic obligations, a teenage gorilla trapped in a cycle of crime, a porcupine stuck in a suffocating relationship with her punk rocker boyfriend and a white mouse, professionally trained, who has been reduced to busking on the streets. Then their aspirations are given a voice in the form of a talent competition mounted by a cash-strapped, misguided and hopelessly optimistic koala who runs a theatre inherited from his father. He is a true P.T. Barnum figure and always just one step away from the poor house. But he believes as much in the currency of talent as he does in the possibility of financial deliverance.

 

The secret weapon behind Sing, the most satisfactory and moving film from Illumination Entertainment – the company that brought us Despicable Me, Minions and The Secret Life of Pets – is its writer-director Garth Jennings. British-born, he has been lying low since his last film, the critically applauded low-budget, live-action Son of Rambow (2007). Here, he makes good on the promise he showed back then. Jennings not only understands the power of music as a driving emotional force, but he has created a menagerie of characters who, for all their failings, we really root for and care about. And as with the real-life competitions it apes, the audience will find its loyalties switching from one contestant to the next.

 

At its most basic, Sing is like an animated X-Factor in which the viewer is invited into the lives and hearts of its participants. But Jennings’ film is so cinematic, heartfelt, funny, savvy and exhilarating, that the animation proves almost secondary. Indeed, the various subplots are so skilfully interwoven and deftly defined, that one almost forgets it’s just a cartoon. Of course, the animation is terrific, but it’s the music that steals the show. And with such tried-and-tested hits as Rod Argent's ‘The Way I Feel Inside,’ Elton John's 'I'm Still Standing,' Taylor Swift's 'Shake It Off' and Leonard Cohen's ‘Hallelujah’ – and many more – crammed onto the soundtrack, one can but feel supremely elevated. As a feel-good entertainment, Sing is not only the best thing Illumination Entertainment has given us, but more affecting and rejuvenating than any other animated feature of 2016.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Voices of  Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Garth Jennings, Nick Offerman, Peter Serafinowicz, Beck Bennett, Jennifer Saunders, Jennifer Hudson, Rhea Perlman, Leslie Jones, Laraine Newman, Bill Farmer, Wes Anderson, Jim Cummings, Edgar Wright.

 

Dir Garth Jennings, Pro Chris Meledandri and Janet Healy, Screenplay Garth Jennings, Pro Des Eric Guillon, Ed Gregory Perler, Music Joby Talbot, Sound Steve Boeddeker.

 

Illumination Entertainment-Universal Pictures.

107 mins. USA/UK/Japan. 2016. Rel: 27 January 2017. Cert. U.