The latest release from Illumination Studios—who brought us the Minions—has broad and obvious appeal, with an all-star voice cast performing a slew of popular songs. But its secret weapon is a man whose name is virtually unknown: Eric Guillon. He’s the man responsible for the funny, fanciful characters and production design in most of Illumination’s animated films. He created the memorably stylized version of Manhattan in The Secret Life of Pets and he’s the one who makes us smile when we look at the menagerie on display in Sing. Who wouldn’t react that way when presented with a singing, dancing pig in sparkly spandex?
Goodness knows the story doesn’t amount to much. A koala named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) presides over a theater that’s hit hard times. His last chance to save the place is to stage a talent contest which attracts a motley collection of contestants.
That slender narrative is the clothesline on which is hung a series of vocals, and for the most part are enjoyable and upbeat. The songs range from The Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers” to Frank Sinatra’s anthem “My Way” with everything from Stevie Wonder to Leonard Cohen in between. The performers include Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane, Jennifer Hudson, and such relative newcomers as Taron Egerton and Tori Kelly, whose magnificent voices provide some of the soundtrack’s standout moments.
Some animated features have staying power as parents can confirm from the number of times their kids want to revisit the movies at home. This slick production, directed by Garth Jennings, is more like fast food—easily digested and just as easily forgotten. But it’s innocuous, the songs are well chosen, and those funny-looking characters of Guillon’s offer some visual pizzazz.