By Sandie Angulo Chen,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Musical has great songs, slapstick laughs, mixed messages.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Offers some background about the difference between high art and performance and popular art.
Clear messages about believing in yourself, pursuing your dreams, being brave, trying hard, working together, and performing for the joy of it -- but it's important not to overlook the fact that Buster lies to everyone and still comes out OK/is rescued in the end (though you can also interpret events as conveying the idea that lying to others doesn't succeed and cheaters get found out). Some viewers may also raise an eyebrow at what Rosita's story says about how the movie views motherhood/homemaking.
Positive Role Models
A mixed bag. The characters work hard, pursue their dreams, and learn to believe in themselves, but they're not all clear-cut role models, and there's some stereotyping based on gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity. Rosita is a devoted wife and mom who manages to take care of her family even while auditioning and rehearsing for the show, but her husband/kids don't even register her absence for days/weeks, which raises serious questions about how the movie views the value of her role at home. Johnny wants to be his own person and not just follow the family business (crime), but he also desperately wants his convict father's approval. Mike is consistently egotistical, rude, and dismissive to others (even calling them names), but he eventually sort of discovers the value of teamwork and others' talent. When forced to, Buster comes clean about his lies and ends up showcasing the talent and what his theater is capable of producing (but he's also rescued by others after making serious mistakes). Meena is terribly afraid of the spotlight but learns to find her voice and follow her passion. Gunter convinces Rosita to let go and not be afraid to dance. Nana has exacting standards for what qualifies as art/theater.
Violence & Scariness
Mob-like Russian bears want to kill Mike for cheating at cards; a glass aquarium shatters, flooding and destroying the theater in a spectacular collapse (it's not clear everyone is OK immediately, but they are); car chases/pursuits. Police pursue an escaped convict with helicopters and more. Buster puts himself in peril to hook up electricity (illegally). A character is injured when stagelights fall on him. Ash's quills pepper the audience during her song. Some arguments/confrontations.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mouse Mike sees a female mouse, ogles/flirts with her, and they become a couple after he starts flashing his cash around. A male pig kisses his wife after she sings and dances to "Shake It Off" (wearing what, for her, is a quite revealing/sexy costume). A young, unmarried porcupine couple lives together until she catches her boyfriend cheating on her -- flirting, hugging, and singing with another porcupine. A rabbit act auditions to the lyrics "oh my gosh, look at her butt," waggling their own rear ends. Another act performs a snippet of "Butterfly," which has the lyric "come, my lady." Buster and Eddie wash cars in their Speedo swimsuits.
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Insults and exclamations, like "stupid," "fool," "loser," "porky," "nobody," "namby pamby," "fat," "jerk," "holy moley," and "fart." Possible use of "hell" in Ash's song.
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Products & Purchases
Nothing in the movie, but plenty of tie-in merchandise/promotions -- from apparel and toys to accessories, figurines, and Happy Meals.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Animals drink at the club.
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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: April 7, 2023
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