I’m a sucker for singing shows. I was one of the millions drawn into the phenomenon that was American Idol’s first season, and on a normal day you can find my friends and me watching episodes of The Voice, gushing over all the talented people that cross its stage and criticizing the judges’ choices. (Midas Whale was robbed!) So, upon seeing the trailer for the upcoming animated film Sing, I knew immediately that I would have to see it, even if it’s not entirely perfect.
From the minds at Illumination Entertainment (who you may know from Despicable Me or that Lorax movie that made Tumblr terrible for a while), Sing centers on an eccentric koala named Buster Moon as he seeks to keep his theater from closing down. By a stroke of brilliance, he figures the best way to do this is by holding a singing competition, and he isn’t wrong: essentially the entire town shows up to audition, bringing much needed attention to his theater. Along the way, the participants in the show discover that they don’t have to accept their lives as they are—they can find people who appreciate their talents and learn to take pride in them. It’s simple, but hey, hearing “animals” perform renditions of pop songs is always a good time in my books.
Immediately what I can appreciate about Sing is that out of the main women who try out for the competition, neither of them are the typical “sexy animal” archetype (having, for example, illogical breasts and proportions that were influenced less by the animal’s species and more by what straight guys would find attractive). One of them, a younger porcupine named Ash, delves into punk-rock music and seems to steer away from traditionally feminine vocal styles—I can’t tell you how here I am for screamo ladies. The other, an older pig named Rosita, is a mother of a whole litter of piglets, and her entire character screams out “overworked, under-thanked mother”. I do think it’s less common in films for mothers to get to have adventures and get to have stories centered around finding their self-worth and confidence outside of their children and spouses, so I’m excited to see how her character arc goes. I don’t know how much I have to worry that her story has a “is she or is she not cheating” sub-plot since it’s a children’s film—her current husband seems uninterested in her life, and one of the other contestants is another pig, so it seems kind of hinted at—but I sincerely hope that it’s never touched on, and that her husband simply gets his shit together and learns how to appreciate his hardworking wife.
One of the big issues Sing has, though, is that literally everyone on the main cast is white (save for one character played by Leslie Jones). While I’m glad that they avoided hiring a Black man to play the role of the gorilla who’s part of a gang, the fact that there are no voice actors of color outside of Jones is incredibly disappointing and, frankly, unacceptable. For example, it would have be interesting to see Ash’s character have a South Asian voice actress, and to have a story about finding empowerment, both in one’s self and in leaving a partner (since Ash is trying to split from her douchebag boyfriend). As for Buster himself, it would have been cool to hire an Aboriginal voice actor, so it’s not just another “white guy fighting against the powers that be” story; also having a community gather around and support said character would be a nice change from the horrors they’re forced to put up with every day.
Sing comes out in theaters on December 21st, and while I’m not one to go see holiday movies during the holidays, I may just make an exception for this one. I’m disappointed by some things, but overall Sing seems like a fun movie with a good message. Let’s just hope that in the future Illumination Entertainment decides to hire a more diverse cast, instead of relying on their CGI animals for diversity.