“Sing,” a toe-tapping film that’s “Zootopia” meets “American Idol,” is charming and entertaining as long as the music is playing. The quieter bits between the songs come across as being slightly out of rhythm. The good thing is that there are barely any moments when a gorilla, porcupine, pig or camel isn’t belting out a tune.
Playing off the popularity of reality competition shows like “The Voice,” “Sing” follows the efforts of Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), a spunky koala whose passion for the arts allows him to open his own theater. A series of failed productions have left the theater – and Buster – in deep financial trouble.
His solution is to hold a singing competition. It’s a good idea except his slightly scattered secretary, Miss Crawly (Garth Jennings), posts the prize money as 100 times greater than Buster planned. The upside is that the lure of big bucks draws a huge group for the auditions.
This is where co-directors Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet have their most fun. Seeing a crass menagerie of singing animals belting out pop tunes is when the film is at its zany best. There’s a trio of frogs performing Van Halen’s “Jump,” a snail belting out the Christopher Cross tune “Ride Like the Wind,” three provocative bunnies performing Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” and a sheep bleating Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.” (Really? Not a seal?)
This scene works beautifully because all the performances are played with great respect to the music. There’s no creature version of “American Idol” trainwreck William Hung in the entire audition.
Jennings, who also wrote the script, takes a slight wrong turn after the auditions. Instead of using the familiar format of elimination rounds, the field is cut to seven and they prepare for a final battle.
This limits the field too quickly and opens up more time for the personal stories of Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a har- rocking porcupine suffering from a breakup, the overworked mother pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) and the fast-talking Mike mouse (Seth MacFarlane).
All of these stories follow familiar paths and could have been more original.
The best moments in this story lull come from Miss Crawly. The one-eyed iguana (which sounds dirtier than it is) shows all the colors of the Mrs. Wiggins character that Carol Burnett played on her variety show. She’s not a great secretary, but she makes up for that with a big heart.
“Sing” finds the beat again at the end as each gets to belt out his or her tune, including Meena (Tori Kelly), a shy elephant who brings the house down – literally.
The voice casting is solid. The only small quibble is with McConaughey as Buster. The actor brings the right amount of fast-talking con man to the performance, but it would have been better for Buster to have had an Australian accent.
Overall, “Sing” is the kind of movie you want to see at the holidays. It’s fun and energetic, has positive story elements and is beautifully crafted. All of this means “Sing” will be a hit with creatures great and small.
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, Nick Kroll
Directors: Garth Jennings and Christophe Lourdelet
Rating: PG (rude humor, peril)
Opens: Wednesday, Dec. 21