Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, Illumination Entertainment's Sing stars Buster Moon (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), a dapper koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. Buster is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Now faced with the crumbling of his life's ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world's greatest singing competition.
In the anthropomorphic world of 'Sing,' the latest from Illumination Entertainment, talent exists in the most unusually normal of places, the unconventionally ordinary, the most uncommonly mundane. Audiences are immediately introduced to the musical ensemble of aspiring singers with sweeping camerawork that jumps from one location to the other with rapid urgency, brief little glimpses into their everyday lives revealing their singular circumstances with an air of the familiar. In the filmmakers' attempt to make each character unique, establishing a yearning for them overcoming their particular dream-crushing situations, there is also something very routine and customary about the plot. These are stock characters living clichéd lives where we know, within the first few minutes, each will triumph over their current state of prosaic affairs because they are ripe with a talent that guarantees fame and success. Adults will find little surprise in this CG feature, but for an animated musical geared at children, the formulaic structure makes for easy entertainment full of glitz and glamor.
Told in a parallel narrative structure where each character's background is given equal measure and weight, we meet the angst-ridden porcupine Ash (Scarlett Johansson) rocking on stage next to her boyfriend Lance (Beck Bennett), who wants the spotlight all to himself and doesn't allow her to shine. The leather jacket-wearing gorilla Johnny (Taron Egerton) is another teenage dreamer singing a tune while serving as lookout for his mobster father, who expects him to follow in the family business. Then, we zip to the other side of town in the suburbs where devoted housewife Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) cares for her twenty-five piglets and softly bemoans with melodious eyes of younger, bygone aspirations. Next, we scurry to the stairs of an elevated train to find cute but well-dressed mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane) wailing on the saxophone but who later turns out to also be a talented crooner in the vein of Frank Sinatra. And finally, we meet shy elephant Meena (Tori Kelly) belting out Happy Birthday for her grandfather into a beautiful melody that'll play a bigger role later.
Bringing them all together is the brightly optimistic koala Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey, not sounding anything like Matthew McConaughey), a theater owner in desperate need of a new act to save his dream of discovering and managing a famous singer. However, one thing never mentioned throughout the 110-runtime is the fact that discovering talent and turning it into a viable star is a talent in itself. And seeing as how every one of Buster's stage productions have been duds, this puts him in the precarious situation of perhaps admitting he doesn't have it and should more likely call it quits. Of course, in the universe of children's animation, this never becomes an option, even when it's brought to his attention several times he should permanently close the doors to the antique theater and move on. In spite of lacking the funds and in no way able to keep his promises, bringing other issues of dishonesty into play, Buster stages a singing competition opened to the public with a cash prize of $100,000. It's easy to guess how this disaster will end, but the little tykes in the room will nonetheless be mesmerized by every minute leading up to the big musical finale.
For the adults dragged into watching 'Sing,' the CG animated musical offers just enough humor and amusing escapades to keep this children's comedy on this side of watchability, in spite of its predictable premise. The movie's most endearing aspect, other than the 'American Idol'-esque opening, is the filmmakers peering into the lives of the characters and what each risks in the pursuit of their dreams. While others learn of the possibly harmful changes surrounding them, Meena's biggest challenge is herself, making her arguably the most charming of the ensemble. But more importantly, those glimpses give rise to a competitive energy as the story unfolds. Meanwhile, both Buster and Mike are essentially two halves of the same whole, or better yet, two animals digitally generated from the same ones and zeros. They're both surprisingly self-destructive and cocksure, seemingly unaware of how their actions affect others. These more mature subject matters make for an engaging plot while the visual humor keeps the laughter marching towards the inevitable happy conclusion where all disasters are easily resolved.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Sing' to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital HD Copy. At the moment, we are unable to verify if the correct size of the content, but the dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-cutout case with a glossy, embossed slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The computer-generated film takes the Ultra HD stage with a spotless and often stunning HEVC H.265 encode in HDR10. Although the overall picture quality isn't a night-and-day difference compared to its Blu-ray counterpart, this 4K version earns a perfect score for being immaculate and flawless.
Nevertheless, the squeaky-clean presentation remains highly-detailed with several sequences offering a noticeable uptick in resolution, exposing the minutiae and meticulous features on the characters' faces. The teeny-weeny bumps and nodules on the noses of the animals are a bit more distinguishable while their skin reveals the most trivial little wrinkle around the eyes, adding another layer of realism. The furry hairs of creatures seem extra fine and more exact while they each move independently, and the puffy, coarse wool of sheep appears bouncier and fluffier. The lines in buildings, furniture and clothing are a tad sharper, and the worn, dry leather jacket of the teenage gorilla Johnny is scruffier with a few more discolored creases.
Presented in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, the freshly-minted transfer ignites the screen with a luxurious, vivacious color palette that better demonstrates why this 2160p video is an upgrade over the HD version. Primaries are much richer and extravagant, as the garishly lavishing reds and electrifying blues of the various outfits and the town maintain an upbeat energy from beginning to end. Much of the emphasis, however, is on the impressively wide array of secondary pastel hues washing over the entire frame, turning every scene and musical number into a sumptuous feast for the eyes. Pitch-perfect contrast adds a crisp, gleaming brilliance to whites while the stage lights and the metal edges of microphones glow with shimmering specular highlights. Black levels are equally magnificent with inky-rich shadows the penetrate deep into the screen, providing the 4K presentation with a beautiful cinematic quality and an appreciable three-dimensional feel throughout.
The Ultra HD edition of the animated musical takes center stage with the same Dolby Atmos soundtrack heard on the Blu-ray with several showstopping moments. Naturally, the musical numbers take center stage, spreading evenly across all three channels and generating a wide and expansive soundstage. Every instrument and note are delivered with crystal-clear clarity thanks to an excellent mid-range that maintains distinct detailing and fidelity even during the movie's loudest segments. The vocals never falter and always remain intelligible throughout, allowing listeners to enjoy the full depth and range in the talented singing voices. The low-end isn't particularly noteworthy or bombastic, but there is plenty of palpable bass, providing the music and few action sequences with weight and resonance.
The design also employs the surrounds and overheads on numerous occasions for creating a satisfying and often-immersive soundfield. The city is littered with various traffic noise and chatter in the distance, most of which is also scattered above the listening area for an amusing dome-like environment. The best scene, however, is when the theater floods, filling the entire room with the chaos of rushing water and the collapse of the building. Understandably, more attention is given to the music, which bleeds into the sides and rears while front and rear heights deliver an echo effect that feels as though listening to a live show inside an auditorium. The lossless, object-based mix doesn't really compare to the best tracks currently available, but it puts on one hell of a good show.
In the anthropomorphic world of 'Sing,' talent exists everywhere is apparently easy to find. Nevertheless, in order to save his theater, a koala sets the stage for bringing a talented ensemble cast of performers together and learn that with enough heart, dreams can come true. In spite of very predictable plot, the CG animated musical comes with enough charm and charisma to be entertaining. The Ultra HD Blu-ray debuts with a spotless and impeccable picture quality and the same satisfyingly engaging Dolby Atmos soundtrack. With the same set of brief supplements, the overall package is enough for the kiddies to enjoy while parents enjoy the excellent presentation.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.