Is it too much to hope for to have 2016 bookended by two great movies about anthropomorphic animals?
Buster Moon, an eternally optimistic koala (Matthew McConaughey) with a love for the performing arts is on the verge of losing his theater. He’s on a financial precipice and it seems like nothing can get things on their feet again. In a final bid to bring resuscitate the theater, Buster decides to host a singing competition, a la American Idol. With a cash prize and chance to show their talents to the world, the competition grabs the interest of many an animal.
The musically talented cast includes Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, Jennifer Hudson, and Nick Kroll.
While the premise is rather trite, the characters themselves, and their lives, are rather diverse. Whether it is a pig who is an overworked housewife with dozens of children (Witherspoon), a teenage gorilla who would rather perform on stage than stage another robbery with his dad’s gang (Edgerton), or a young elephant with the voice of an angel in desperate need of overcoming her shyness (Kelly), everyone has a story. It’s a surprisingly character driven little film.
Somehow the fact that the characters are all animals helps with telling the story immensely. Animal traits are used to help inform the characters’ personalities, giving them a greater depth in a shorter amount of time. The animation perfectly captures the various ear twitches and nose wiggles of these animals, using body language to help develop their personalities on screen. It works. Amazingly, we actually care about these characters, and we haven’t even gotten to the singing yet.
Surprisingly secondary to the rest of the plot, the singing is excellent, with amusing and entertaining covers of a variety of recognizable songs – which the trailers have mostly focused on. Each character has their own style, and some of the performances are a ton of fun to watch.
The story has been done before – save the theater with a big old variety show while dodging catastrophes along the way. I think the Muppets have done it at least a couple of times! What would have been the main problem for another group though (something like the power being cut off) is small beans for Buster and crew. It takes a real tsunami of disasters to stand in their way, and you’re left actually wondering how things could ever work out.
This movie is a ton of fun with memorably entertaining characters, but it doesn’t quite have a lot to say beyond that. There are some middling messages about facing fears, being yourself, etc. but nothing too deep. That’s ok, it’s pretty good as is, but doesn’t quite elevate beyond a good time for kids and adults alike. Zootopia is still better.
Mrs. Hamster did not screen this film
Brother Hamster did not screen this film
My rating: Four out of five hats
Sing belts out in 4,022 theaters December 21, in 2D and 3D