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(Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt was for a poem inspired by a favorite musical genre. So I wrote my own lyrics to the beautiful Leonard Cohen classic “Hallelujah,” which was used in this film, and it’s best sung to that tune.)

I heard there was a big contest
Where people sang to prove they’re the best,
But who would try when all the world sees through ya?
Yet trying is a practice sport,
It’s hard to start, easier to thwart,
But still I saw a chance for hallelujah!

I answered to the casting call;
I saw so many give their all,
But not too much or else they’d have to sue ya.
Then my turn came, and I stepped sincere;
I flung my lungs to the judges’ ear
And hoped to God I’d find my hallelujah.

The echoes waned, and I waited there,
And one leaned backward in his chair,
And said, “If I produced, I would pursue ya.
But this audition’s meant for dance,”
So clearly I did not advance,
But still I got a chance at hallelujah.
It is true-ya,
But who knew-ya?
My debut-ya,
My limelight, but not quite,
Hallelujah.
____________________

MPA rating: PG

At first glance, Sing looks very generic, especially with Illumination largely meh record (The Secret Life of Pets, Despicable Me). Anthropomorphic animals? Seen it, that same year actually with Zootopia. A singing competition? That’s only been done, oh, about 100 times. So what does Sing offer? Well, nothing new really, but it does present its familiar elements in a highly crowd-pleasing way with an all-star voice cast and bright animation to rival its competitors.

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A koala named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) owns an old failing theater with great passion and nostalgia, and when the bank threatens to foreclose on it, he decides to hold a singing competition to revive the venue’s reputation, accidentally offering a cash prize he doesn’t have. A motley crew of animal characters then audition for the show with their eyes on the prize, and things go both very wrong and very right.

The most notable aspect of Sing is the sheer number of pop standards it includes, over 60, sometimes only for a few seconds, an expense that reportedly used up 15% of the film’s budget. From Taylor Swift and Frank Sinatra to Queen and Stevie Wonder, it’s a veritable auditory feast of well-produced popular music, which also offered me the surprise of realizing how well actors like Scarlett Johansson can sing, even as a porcupine. Plus, I have little doubt that Taron Egerton’s rendition of “I’m Still Standing” helped clinch his casting as Elton John in Rocketman.

The diverse characters and personalities – mice, porcupines, pigs, gorillas, elephants – all get basic but relatable character development, and I liked how every one of the contestants had a different reason for wanting to sing and win the money, whether for selfish needs, a chance to start over, or for more personal hopes and dreams. There was charm to spare in the voice cast, which also included Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Tori Kelly, John C. Reilly, and Peter Serafinowicz, and the animation was smooth and colorful, particularly an impressively rendered scene involving a flood.

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So ultimately, Sing is an enjoyable film built on a lackluster base. It’s easily criticized for its lack of originality, yet all the ingredients come together to make it surprisingly… likable, I guess is the word. It’s easily Illumination’s best film, in my book. Plus, I do love the original song “Faith,” sung by Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande, which deserves a place in my End Credits Song Hall of FameSing doesn’t step far out of any box, but it’s a thoroughly amusing and pleasant watch sure to get your toe tapping.

Best line: (Buster, showing Ash a garish costume) “Isn’t this a great color for you?”
(Ash) “I can’t tell. It’s melting my eyes.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2020 S.G. Liput
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