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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sing is an animated comedy (with tons of music/singing) from the producers of the Despicable Me films. It centers around a theater-owning koala (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) who decides to run a talent contest to boost ticket sales for his financially flagging theater. The A-list voice cast, reality talent show premise, familiar pop songs, and cute animal characters make this an appealing pick for families with young kids. But note that there's some peril/danger: Angry gangster bears try to kill a cheating mouse, a gorilla thief is mean to his son, and a building collapses spectacularly, putting many key characters in danger. There are also slapstick laughs, silly jokes, risque moments (from bunny singers waggling their bottoms while they sing "oh my gosh, look at her butt!" to a pig husband passionately kissing his wife after she performs in a sexy costume), and insult language ("stupid," "porky," etc.). And while the movie clearly promotes trying hard, being brave, working together, and following your dreams, it also has some stereotypes and mixed messages about lying, parent-child relationships, and the value of motherhood/homemaking.
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What's the story?
SING is the story of ambitious theater-owning koala Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), who needs a hit show to save his beloved theater from foreclosure. Buster has the bright idea to host a singing competition at the theater, but, due to a printing error, the reward on the promotional flyer changes from $1,000 (which he didn't even really have) to $100,000. Once news of the big payoff spreads, local contestants vie for the top spot, including under appreciated pig mama Rosita (Reese Witherspoon); Johnny (Taron Egerton), the son of gorilla crime boss Big Daddy (Peter Serafinowicz); punk-rocker porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson); and shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly), who has the pipes but not the confidence. Then there's arrogant crooner mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane), who's so sure he'll win that he spends and gambles, making him (and consequently the theater) a target for angry Russian bear mobsters.
Is it any good?
Featuring appealing covers of hit songs and an all-star cast, this cute animated comedy capitalizes on the craze for both talking-animal adventures and talent competitions. The movie may not have the substance of Inside Out or the overt messages of Zootopia, but, like Trolls, it's simple, with catchy pop music and jokes that are likely to make kids laugh. (Unlike Trolls, its take-aways aren't quite as thoroughly positive -- see below.) The musical numbers are by far the best part of the movie, including Jennifer Hudson-voiced renditions of "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight" to the piggy duet of "Shake It Off" (by Witherspoon and comedian Nick Kroll as a German boar called Gunter) to Kelly's show-stopping version of "Hallelujah."
The music is what makes Sing worth the price of admission, because, story- and theme-wise, there are a few missteps that keep it from greatness. Like, say, the depiction of Rosita's home life. She does everything for her 25 piglets, and her burnt-out husband (Nick Offerman) barely registers her. He's so checked out that he doesn't notice when she sets up a Rube-Goldberg contraption to keep the household working when she can't secure a babysitter to participate in the contest. And then there's poor Johnny, who desperately wants his criminal father's approval. A child wanting a parent to see them shine is wonderful, but did they have to make the father in question a bank robber? But if what you want is a bubbly diversion you''l find yourself singing along to after the credits roll, then Sing hits the spot. Just don't think about it too hard.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Sing's messages. What does it say about finding your voice and following your dreams? How does it promote teamwork, courage, and perseverance? Why are those important character strengths?
Who are the movie's role models? What do they do that makes them admirable?
Did you notice any stereotypes in the movie? How can non-human characters reinforce stereotypes that we typically associate with people?
Some critics have said that the movie doesn't treat its female characters particularly well, from Rosita's absence at home barely being noticed, to Ash's bad relationship, to Buster's behavior toward Miss Crawly. Do you agree?
Why do you think Johnny is so desperate for his dad's approval, even though his dad is a criminal? Do you think he would have felt he succeeded if he hadn't gotten that validation?
- In theaters: December 21, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: March 21, 2017
- Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson, Taron Egerton, Reese Witherspoon
- Director: Garth Jennings
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Arts and Dance, Cats, Dogs, and Mice, Horses and Farm Animals, Music and Sing-Along, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance, Teamwork
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some rude humor and mild peril
- Last updated: February 18, 2021
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