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Sing (2016)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
4K UHD Released: 3/21/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/6/2017

As someone who has dabbled in screenwriting, I can tell you that it presents many challenges. (Not the least of which is actually sitting down and typing.) One of these is deciding just how dense the script should be. Once the writer has the initial idea in place, there is typically a number of details and subplots which can accompany this central premise. Should every character's backstory be fleshed out? Should there be a lot of detours on the way to the conclusion? These kinds of questions (should) challenge most writers, as they don't want to be accused of creating a story which is too shallow, but something which is overwritten can create movie which is difficult to digest. I was very surprised to see that Sing, which appeared to be a simply family film, ran into that second issue.

Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) fell in love with show business at a very young age, and he's the proud owner of his own theater. Unfortunately, he has never been very good and picking shows which the public likes and his theater is about to be in foreclosure. He comes up with the idea of having a singing competition, and puts the word out for auditions. This attracts a diverse group of individuals. Rosita (voice by Reese Witherspoon) is an overworked housewife who can't imagine leaving her 26 children. Johnny (voiced by Taron Egerton) dreams of being a singer, but he's also tied to his father's criminal empire. Ash (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) is a rocker who is part of a duo with boyfriend, Lance (voiced by Beck Bennett). Mike (voiced by Seth MacFarlane) is a street performer who favors the saxophone and the style of crooners. Meena's (voiced by Tori Kelly) family encourages her to audition, but she has stage fright. Buster is surprised to see the number of performers who come to try out and once he's paired them down to a select group, it's time to plan for the show. But, Buster's financial problems and the personal issues of the singers will put the extravaganza in peril.

In the past, we've discussed how, when I watch films, I will often imagine how the idea was presented to producers. With Sing, it doesn't take a great imagination to envision someone saying, "Hey, American Idol and The Voice are huge. Let's do an animated movie where animals have a singing competition." This is a total no-brainer. In theory, Sing should have been a slam-dunk. But, there was one small problem. Nine months before Sing hit theaters, a little movie called Zootopia was released. The fact that both movies involve cities filled with various kinds of animals didnít necessarily affect the quality of Sing, but it did force those whoíd seen Zootopia to automatically make comparisons when watching Sing, despite the fact that their stories share no similarities. (This may sound like a wacky theory, but while watching Sing, I couldnít help but wonder if there had been a change with the Rosita character due to Zootopia. It seemed sort of odd for a pig to have so many kids and it would have felt more organic had Rosita been a rabbit. Was she originally a rabbit and it was changed due to the Judy Hopps character in Zootopia?)

Again, none of that directly affects the quality of Sing. And, again, this movie should have been an easy win for Illumination. Thereís no doubt that the film has some positive features. The character design is interesting. (Not unlike Zootopia) It straddles the line between scientifically accurate and cartoony. The movie has a very playful sense of humor, which doesnít skew too adult like so many other modern animated films. The plot surrounding an old-time venue like Busterís theater is somewhat of a gamble, as it will most likely mean nothing to most kids, but it comes across as charming. And, as noted above, the idea of a singing competition with animals is fun, and the music used in the first half of the movie is fun and energetic. I really respected how the movie dispensed with any pre-text and individually introduced the main characters in a very systematic way.

The problem with Sing is that it is in desperate need of editing and streamlining. I hate to repeat myself, but an animal singing competition is a born winner and the film could have simply been the beginning and the ending and it would have been a ton of fun. But, the makers of Sing clearly felt that the movie needed more...a lot of more. At 108 minutes, the movie is way too long. (Hereís a clue Illumination -- We know that you want to be Pixar. Emulating their long movies isnít the way to do this.) I guess that they didnít want the movie to be accused of being underwritten, so the middle part of the film focuses on subplot after subplot involving each of the main characters. For the performers, we get to see the things which are holding them back from fully committing to the show. For Buster, we see his continuing struggle to keep the theater afloat. There are a few funny moments here and one surprising twist, but it also makes the movie feel bloated. Things donít improve in the third act, when the competition finally begins. We are presented with each contestant's full performance. Of course, it the song doesnít work or isnít appealing, this runs the risk of losing the audience, and other than Rositaís song, I found this section ponderous.

In the end, Sing is a missed opportunity. Sure, if it had simply been a movie about singing animals, it could have been dismissed as pandering and shallow, but at least it could have been fun throughout. As it stands, the movie is awash with stops and starts as it tries to balance its jubilant musical number with more serious moments and the most bizarre car wash scene ever.

Sing reminded me that I don't like modern pop music on 4K UHD courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the Disc contains a 2160p HD transfer. Simply put, the image here is flawless. The picture is bright, but not overly so, and the colors nearly leap off of the screen. The film offers a nice mixture of pastel shades with some darker colors and the contrast looks great. The crispness of the image is second-to-none, which leads to a clarity that makes it look like we could walk into the picture. The depth, even in this 2D version, is quite impressive, and the level of detail in notable, as we can make out textures on objects, and we can see the animal's fur. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos 7.1 track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. As one would hope, the music sounds very good, as it fills the speakers and some songs delivering noticeable bass. The stereo and surround sound effects are very active, and the big plot twist moment delivers a symphony of effects from all of the channels.

The Sing 4K UHD features three "Mini-Movies" -- "Gunter Babysits" (4 minutes), "Love at First Sight" (4 minutes), and "Eddie's Life Coach" (4 minutes) -- all of which are presented in 4K UHD and all of which contain a few funny moments. The remainder of the extras are found on the Blu-ray Disc which is included here. "The Making of Sing" (5 minutes) features interviews with the filmmakers who talk about how the project came together and their approach to the material. We also see the actors at work and get a glimpse at the character design. "Finding the Rhythm: Editing Sing" (3 minutes) has Editor Gregory Perler explaining how animated films are edited. "Character Profiles" (12 minutes) offer brief vignettes which examines six of the film's characters. (What? No Seth MacFarlane?) We get the MUSIC VIDEOS for "Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" and "Faith", along with LYRIC VIDEOS for "Faith" and "Set It All Free". "Making a Music Video with Tori Kelly" (3 minutes) takes us on-set to show the video being shot. "Sing & Dance! - Faith" (7 minutes) offers a dance lesson for viewers. "The Sing Network" offers five fake commercials from the film's universe offering characters from the movie. "The Best of Gunter" (1 minute) is a reel of clips from the film.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long