Sing – When failing theatre owner, Buster Moon, sends out thousands of flyers advertising a last-ditch singing competition accidentally promising a huge cash prize, he is completely unprepared for the level of interest. Middle-aged housewives, sons of crime lords, dancing gurus and painfully shy superstars in waiting. With his dream of reinvigorating the historic theatre crumbling, Moon must inspire those around him to put on the show of a lifetime – even if they risk finding out the truth….

Sing (2016) – Director: Garth Jennings, Christophe Lourdelet

is sing 2016 movie suitable for kids poster

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Rating: U

Running Length: 108 mins

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth McFarlane

Genre: Comedy

REVIEW: ‘SING’

The ‘singing / talent competition’ framing device has become the modern ‘let’s get the band back together’. A go-to technique to collect disparate characters under one purpose and see their individual arcs. Whilst the TV spots and teaser trailers for ‘Sing’ may have implied that this was solely a novelty film about an amusingly enthusiastic dancing pig, in actual fact ‘Sing’ plays its theme much warmer and much lower key than it had any right to for such a generic plot.

As with any piece with such a well-worn story like this, the movie lives or dies by its characters. And for the most part it lives well. Rosita (Witherspoon) is a stay-at-home mom who longs for something more. Johnny is a mobster’s son who doesn’t want to follow in his fathers criminal footsteps, Ash (Johansson) is a punk rocker who is talked down to by her arrogant boyfriend, and the painfully shy Meena who (of course) has an angelic voice but suffers from oppressive stage fright. These characters are empathetic, realistic and, whilst the ensemble cast means that there isn’t as much time to dig into each character as we’d like, each gets enough screen time to land well. The varied modern soundtrack hooks in nicely and plays well to the ‘living your dream’ strengths of the movie.

In particular, the emotional hooks come from; Johnny’s relationship with his father (which is played with both bite and love), and ring master Buster’s (McConaughey) hard work to do justice to the dream that his father had of making the historic theatre a modern success. Buster’s tale is the core of the story. The movie wisely pitches him right: he isn’t a Simon Cowell ‘mean’ type – he genuinely wants the best for his gaggle of would-be stars. However, one very sour bite in an otherwise tasty (albeit familiar) slice of pie is that of Mike (played by Seth McFarlane). This is a character who has no arc, no emotional growth, and whose reprehensible actions and words the movie never addresses. He fat shames, he threatens, he steals, he treats women as disposable adornments to be bought off. Yet somehow ‘Sing’ never has any character challenge him and he learns nothing by the time the credits roll. Annoyingly, he is treated as a comedy scamp which, moral lessons for children aside, sticks out like a sore thumb in this modern day and age.

This grating misstep aside, ‘Sing’ takes familiar tropes and a familiar backdrop and, for the most part, sings the same old song again well enough to get your toes tapping. With some great gags and some genuinely emotional parts, ‘Sing’ makes you want to stand up on stage and be your best self – something we all need from time to time.

CONTENT: IS ‘SING’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN

One character cycles a bike recklessly into oncoming traffic.

One of the opening sequences shows a family of gorillas committing a bank robbery.

A montage shows a bunch of ‘ordinary’ people singing in their daily life – and they are usually mocked for doing so.

One character is singing whilst begging for money. When one passer-by only gives a penny, the character gets angry and publicly humiliates them. He then steals the passer-by’s money and feels completely justified in doing so. The movie does not imply that this is wrong in any way.

The same character constantly makes jokes about people’s weight / size without any comeuppance. He yells ‘oh my gosh, look at her butt!’ as one shy character walks away and he mocks her in song. He later calls her ‘jumbo’ as well and says ‘see you around, porky’.

The same character again tries to impress women using money and a flashy car. This works, and again there is no comeuppance and the movie makes no effort to contradict that it’s ok to flash money around to attract women.

One character accidentally stamps on a snail, although they apologise and feel guilty.

One character’s father is let down by their son. He is hurt, confused and angry. The son is heartbroken at having let down his father (despite never being comfortable with his father’s illegal activity).

Bears threaten a character and briefly ‘eat’ them before spitting them out again.

A building with a strong emotional connection with one character collapses. This is part of a big action sequence but afterwards the movie turns very sombre and sad. The character is devastated and broken, and they apologise to their deceased father for ruining the family dream. This precedes a protracted sad period where many of the characters are down and depressed. This lasts around 10 minutes.

The weight mocking character is confused as to why the larger character is popular and snorts, “It’s like watching Jell-O dancing around!” Again, this is never scolded in any way.

CAN I SEE A CLIP?
VERDICT: IS ‘SING’ FOR KIDS?

Mike (Seth McFarlane’s character) aside, Sing is a surprisingly warm tale that doesn’t descend too much into schmaltzy ‘Pop Idol’ style competition and instead focuses on each character living their dreams or being the best version of themselves they can be. Due to the sad moments we would recommend this movie as appropriate for ages 5 and up, although we would state that some parental guidance on the actions and dialogue of Mike may be required due to the movie never addressing this itself.

  • Violence: 1/5 (mostly threats of violence but the criminal bears are very threatening and physically imposing)
  • Emotional Distress: 3/5 (many of the parts with the shy elephant Meena feature extreme social anxiety as she is cripplingly shy. One character is crushed by the destruction of an emotionally important building)
  • Fear Factor: 2/5 (the criminal characters are threatening, intimidating and scary)
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (depicts attracting women as disposable and capable of being bought)
  • Bad Language: 1/5 (many fat shaming insults and otherwise very mild curses)
  • Dialogue: 1/5 (Mike’s dialogue is almost all mocking and insulting to others depicted as a consequence-free way to behave)
  • Other Notes: Deals with themes of living your dream, being your best self, inspiring others, keeping up a lie, wanting to escape normal family life, manipulating others for your own intentions (both good and bad) and trying to live out the dreams of your family.

Words by Mike Record

 

Sing


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