Sing - Certificate U, 108 mins, Illumination Animation Studios.
From Illumination, the studio that made the Despicable Me movies, and its own spin-off, those inescapable yellow Minions, comes a new animation with an instantly appealing premise. It’s essentially what would happen if a population of animals competed in the current glut of talent shows which dominate Saturday night schedules: The X-Factor, Britain’s Got Talent etc.
A little koala-bear compère with big dreams, Buster Moon (voiced with great pep by the ever-charismatic Matthew McConaughey), chooses to save his struggling theatre by hosting a singing competition.
So, every kind of animal imaginable takes part: A pig, Rosetta (Reese Witherspoon), an over-worked housewife with twenty-five piglets, Ash, (Scarlett Johansson) a rock-star hedgehog, a diminutive hustler-mouse, Mike, with big-band crooner tones (Ted’s Seth McFarlane) and Johnny, a conflicted young gorilla, born into family criminality (Taron Egerton).
The trailers, draw heavily on the central conceit of these critters belting out some of today’s most recognisable pop-hits, such as a trio of OMG bunnies wiggling to Nicki Minaj. I wondered if the somewhat shoo-in selling-point of: ‘talking-animal jukebox karaoke’ could sustain at feature-length, or whether the novelty of seeing McConaughey perform a rendition of Call Me Maybe might wear off - but it works. Its set-up is so simple, and all the more joyous for it.
It’s enriched further by a universally terrific voice cast. Stand-outs include the brilliant Egerton, my choice for 2016’s BAFTA Rising-Star, who had his breakthrough in the Kingsman franchise. Jennifer Saunders, is very funny as a prima-dona operatic sheep, in the reclusive Norma Desmond mould. But it’s completely stolen by Miss Crawley, the elderly reptilian secretary, replete with Badminton visor and a glass-eye that’s always falling out - voiced by the film’s director, Garth Jennings.
Gloriously detailed animation, foregrounds everything: soap suds, hedgehog spikes, and a sensational flood, in a perfectly rendered metropolis that’s utterly believable.
Its been an outstanding year for animation, from Pets, to Zootropolis, and Trolls to Kubo - so if Sing isn’t quite as stirring as Moana, it’s still a total delight.
Rating: * * * *