Illumination’s latest movie, Sing, is a song and dance you’ve seen before. Heck, the Muppets have done it twice at least. Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey as a Koala) grew up loving the theater, and eventually (with financial help from his blue-collar dad) he buys a theater. Buster’s not very good at running it, though, so it’s in pretty dire straits with the koala dodging the bank and having trouble paying his employees. He’s got one last chance to save the theater, with an American Idol-ish singing competition. Hijinks, of course, ensue.
The animation is fine, with some decent visual gags, and of course, the music works fine (it better, considering). The one thing they needed to do is trim the cast. There’s too many characters we are supposed to care about packed into too little movie to actually build them up. They could easily drop the wannabe gangster mouse so we could flesh out the other characters a bit more. This is fine for kids, probably, but adults will see through it as they rely on the fact we’ve seen these stories before to fill in the blanks. At least the music is entertaining. The voice cast does a perfectly fine job but nobody leaps out, except maybe Taron Egerton as the young gorilla Johnny. Uh, no pun intended.
Sing is worth a matinee showing if your kids are clamoring to see it. It’s cute. Exactly what you expect happens right when it should. Just don’t expect to think about it or remember much about it a few days later. I’m still thinking about Kubo.
There’s a huge reason Captain America: Civil War works and Batman v Superman doesn’t, and that’s emotional investment. I know Zack Snyder and DC/WB wanted to do thing their own way and not ape Marvel’s so far successful approach, but when you are rebooting two legendary characters and making significant changes, you need to get the fans used to these new versions. We KNOW Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. We’ve seen them overcome numerous obstacles, both separately and together. They’ve fallen on hard times, been betrayed, beaten, come back stronger. Mistakes were made, characters have evolved, things have changed. It’s why we can believe Captain America, the guy who wears flag colors and beat the snot out of Nazis and HYDRA for his country, would now decide “the safest hands are still our own”. Why we can believe Tony Stark, the rebel genius whose not a team player, admonished for his ‘ready-fire-aim’ mentality, would toe the line this time after never even looking for the line before. Cap, since being unfrozen, was lied to by Fury, found out SHIELD was infiltrated by his greatest enemy, and then had to bail Tony’s ass out after one of his creations came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the Earth. Tony for his part, finally has to come to grips with the fact that his first impulse may not always be his best. And this time, it wasn’t just his own life getting torn to shreds, but the entire planet.
Batman V Superman just didn’t have that weight behind it. WB wanted us to care about them fighting, and spent a lot of words during the movie hyping it up, and trying to tell us how important it was, but during Civil War? Didn’t need a word of it. I felt every punch in that final battle especially. Tony, GUTTED by the horrific video of the Winter Soldier killing his parents, feeling the sting of their death again, the betrayal that Steve knew about it (remember in CA:TWS it was shown by Zola), lashes out. The battle, which had so far been over an idea, becomes brutally personal. I was enjoying the movie to that point, but at that point? Riveted.
Shifting gears a bit, it’s kind of amazing that I can be this far in and only now discussing everything else that happened in the movie. We meet Spider-Man! And it’s a poor, nerdy kid whose quippy yet awkward. Tom Holland nails it. BLACK PANTHER, I mean, come on. His moves are unreal, he dismantles Bucky, but even in the midst of righteous anger over the death of his father, T’Challa can step back from his vengeance to serve justice. What an example for the two sides fighting, eh? The Russos made Florence Kasumba’s “Security Chief” (gotta be one of the Dora Milaje) more interesting in one scene with one line than BvS did for 90% of the characters in it.
If you are concerned this sounds too heavy, well, it’s got more weight than a lot of Marvel movies, but rest assured, it brings the funny. Many of the best lines aren’t in the trailers, including the scene with Falcon and Bucky in the car, or Falcon fighting Spider-Man. Or Ant-Man and the truck. Even crazier, there was a character building moment or two for everybody. OH, and much has already been said about the Vision and his dapper look – his relaxed home attire always slays me in his current comic, and I’m glad to see it here, but it’s his interactions with Wanda that are most interesting. He isn’t yet to “even an android can cry” territory yet, but the groundwork is there.
Zemo, technically the villain since he really sets in motion the acts that get Avengers fighting Avengers, fares better than some of the recent Marvel villains. Quite different from the comics but built with real, complex motivations.
As for flaws, I think the movie wasn’t as well paced out as The Winter Soldier. Considering the sheer amount of content, that’s understandable. With that, Captain America: Civil War can’t quite dethrone Iron Man and The Winter Soldier as my go-to Marvel movies, but it gets massive, Giant-Man sized points for being to pull off as many heroes and storylines as it did.
Live-action versions of their classic animated features is a thing for Disney right now, and the next one is The Jungle Book. Yeah, I know it’s technically adapted from the Kipling book but make no mistake the classic animated version is the inspiration here. Thankfully, it’s a really good adaptation.
The first thing that stands out are the visuals. It was super important for the animal characters to fit in seamlessly with Neel Sethi’s Mowgli, and the 3D animators did a fantastic job. I never once thought of the animal characters as not being real and present in the scenes. It’s honestly pretty amazing, movies have tried to get talking animals to work for years, and it really does here. The 3D was well done, too, this may be one of the few movies where 3D is worth the extra couple of bucks.
Speaking of Neel Sethi, he did a great job as Mowgli for the most part. There was a time or two where he seemed to be doing the ‘standing and talking to nothing’ thing that happens with kid actors but considering he had NO other humans to talk to I can’t blame him. He nailed the emotional parts, which is the main thing.
Idris Elba’s Shere Khan is genuinely terrifying (younger or sensitive children WILL be scared at a couple of places), and the rest of the voice cast are excellent. Bill Murray (Baloo) and Christopher Walken (King Louie) even manage to pull off their songs, though I’d agree with critics who feel they are a bit out of place in this version. But hey, they’re fun so I let it slide. Lupita Nyong’o and Ben Kingsley deserve praise as well.
I heartily recommend The Jungle Book for any family looking for a movie to share. My girls spent the ride home quoting lines back and forth (they love the “Bears don’t hibernate in a jungle!” exchange in the trailers) and even my son cracked a smile while being too cool to hang with us.