I went into Sing with the lowest possible expectations because Illumination Entertainment has not had a great track record lately. I didn’t let the film’s current Rotten Tomatoes score of 72% raise those expectations, because the atrocity that was The Secret Life of Pets also had a score around that number and was certified fresh. I guess critics just have a soft spot for big animated movies because “they’re for kids” and “as long as the children are entertained, flaws don’t matter”. I’ll admit, 2016 has been a good year for animation, but that’s thanks to studios like Disney, Pixar, and Laika. The animated films with the lower scores are the ones that are noticeably worse in picture quality, like Norm of the North (which deserves the low score, by the way). However, if a film is well animated and full of bright colors and music, like Trolls, critics and audiences are distracted by the pretty lights and are compelled to say “it wasn’t that bad”.
I’ll say right off the bat that Sing is not as bad as Trolls or The Secret Life of Pets, and it’s nowhere near the utter disaster of Norm of the North, but it doesn’t exactly top the list of the year’s animated films. I’ll start off with some positives, because there definitely are a few. Illumination is a greedy, creatively lacking, money printing machine, but their animation is stellar. The look of this film is breathtaking, from the flashing colors to the detail in the animals’ fur. If you look at most of my reviews of animations from this year, though, I say pretty much the same thing. Unless it was made for DVD and then spontaneously released in theaters, most animated films will look fantastic. The Angry Birds Movie was beautiful, and Trolls was hypnotizing with its visual style. That doesn’t make either of those films good, though.
There’s a lot of music in Sing, most of it very popular and being covered by big name Hollywood celebrities, so expect a feel-good tone that small children will have a blast with. You can see this movie once with the whole family and walk out unharmed, but it will get annoying if you buy it in a few months and your children start watching it 24/7. Sing is a perfectly fine one-time watch that isn’t absolute torture to watch. I feel like I’m giving the film a lot of praise by saying that since I expected to hate it, but I’m really not. The songs and the dances, especially during the very long final concert, will probably keep most kids and even adults entertained, but that doesn’t mean there’s any substance in the story.
The sole purpose of Sing that is extremely blatant and pretty sad is to produce a bunch of covers of pop songs and hopefully sell a successful soundtrack. By the looks of the box office right now, it looks like that little koala’s dream is coming true because these songs are going to sell like crazy. But just like when a film is based around a toy or a video game, there will likely be nothing to the story or the characters when the heart and sole of the product is the album and the merchandise. There is one character in the film, that being the koala played by Matthew McConaughey, that has any sort of arc throughout the film. It’s a very basic one, but it’s there and it’s very lonely.
The movie tries to introduce all its characters at once at the beginning of the film, and it’s some of the messiest writing and exposition I’ve seen all year. I can name several films from 2016 right now that had the same job of introducing us to a large group of new characters—Suicide Squad, The Magnificent Seven, Rogue One—and despite what you may think of those films, their possibly messy character introductions are extremely effective and seamless compared to Sing‘s. It shows one animal for thirty seconds to two minutes, tells us why they love singing and what’s stopping them from reaching their goal, then zooms across town to show us the next character. The movie just gets its exposition out of the way as quickly as possible so it can get to the singing faster, and the only purpose of any of those characters is (you guessed it) to sell some songs on iTunes.
— Camden McDonald