Monday, December 19, 2016

Movie Review: SING

Theater producer Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) owns the most glorious theater in town, but his many failures have brought the theater gradually down, to the point of almost falling apart. When the bank gives an ultimatum to Moon, he has one last chance to reestablish the theater to its former glory and he decides to assemble the greatest singing competition ever put to stage.

By reading that synopsis I don't think anyone would ever believe it needed to have animals as characters and that cuts right to the problems Sing has. Even though it manages to sneak in some good laughs and funny characters, the final product ends up being a mess, overlong and stuffed with too much for a single film.

The saddest part about this is that it furthers a pre-conception about Illumination Entertainment and the more we go on the more that becomes evident: they are not making movies based on good stories, their interest is widely oriented towards flashy products that attract kids and they keep struggling with bringing those ideas on screen in a way that makes a film pleasant and watchable for all audiences. Their animation is also inferior to anything we've seen in the genre recently. So of course they are making tons of money and good for them, but the more we go on the more I frown when the logo of the company comes in before the film, it has never meant good news up until now and that's really sad.

Garth Jennings worked on this project for five years and wrote and directed this alone, something very rare in the animation world, so he definitely deserves a huge amount of respect for diving into such an effort and, admittedly, he comes out with some good stuff. Many of the characters in this film have a great starting point and an effortlessly comedic dynamic. Miss Crawly, voiced by Jennings himself, is the old lizard assistant to Moon and almost all of her jokes work, her dynamic on screen is just comedic gold. Seth MacFarlane also brings to life a hilarious, irreverent rat with a passion for jazz and that is another element of the film that really works.

There is also a raw energy to the film that is established through the music that is passed on to the audience in a positive way for the major part. It gets you going along with the characters and brings out some very funny musical gags and jokes that are definitely the highlight of the film. There's also the fact that the protagonist of the film is incredibly likable and even though his journey doesn't offer much emotionally, he remains a strong character with some very strong traits.

Yet, nothing, not even the incredibly high spirited joyful atmosphere of the film can save some of the big flaws in the storytelling and the overall concept of the film. There are no two ways around it: you are watching a film with anthropomorphized animals and I couldn't, for the life of me, explain to myself why they were animals and why this was the medium through which I was watching the film. It is a fatal story flaw that annoyed the hell out of me, especially considering how big of a production this is.

Another highly unbalanced element is how the music is handled in the story. Whilst it does manage to give the film a pleasant beat at times, for the majority of the film the way in which the characters interact with it is pathetic and this is coming from someone who has been a musician for all of his life. The message behind the music, the way showmanship is represented, the idea of the competition and worst of all the actual music choice, all of this is handled terribly, it sets a terrible example for kids and it really disrespects the musician figure. It does not manage to make the music relevant thematically or emotionally and that is yet another flaw in how the movie is structured and brought to life.

Finally, there are many touches of style in the film that fail miserably. The way the characters are introduced by making the camera move fast around the city, is one of the laziest and most useless techniques I have ever had the displeasure of experiencing in a theater and I think that everyone involved in taking that decision should really think about it. It is terribly out of place and adds nothing to the story or the tone of the film. It is really something that I was shocked to see employed in an A+ Hollywood production and this is not the only useless and lazy stylish addition that the film employs.

Overall sing has some good comedic touches, some likable characters and an overall energetic vibe to favor it, yet the film on a whole does not stand up as a pleasantly joyful experience because of several flaws from the inception of the idea to the character development.

James' Score: 5/10

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