There is novelty in the idea of Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon as a sow singing Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” or “Fireworks,” by Swift’s arch enemy, Katy Perry.
That Reese, a real peace maker.
And her fellow Oscar winner, Matthew McConaughey, crooning a bar of “Call Me, Maybe,” as a cuddly koala bear Broadway impresario? Sure.
Who knew Scarlett Johansson could carry a tune? We still don’t. She voices Ash, the porcupine punk rocker, so we don’t actually see her lips move.
But entertainment value? Not much here, there or when eager beaver crooner Seth McFarlane, as a jazz-loving mouse, belts out Sinatra’s signature tune (written by Paul Anka) “My Way.”
“Sing” is a cynical “Let’s put on a show” musical that piles on the star voices (Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson has a small diva role) and plays on the guilt that has parents taking the tykes to any tuneful toon that comes down the pike, especially over the holidays.
It’s marginally worse than “Trolls,” for those who’re wondering whether to park the kids in the theater while hanging out, texting and noshing in the lobby.
The story — one shudders to call it that — is about that impresario, Buster Moon (McConaughey), on the ropes after a string of flops titled “War of Attrition” and the like.
His lone remaining backer (a sheep voiced by John C. Reilly, not allowed to sing here) is wary. Buster needs a hit in the worst way. Which is how he comes up with an on-stage “America’s Got Talent,” a live audition singing competition in which the audience will pick the winner of a grand prize.
Buster’s so broke he doesn’t have the cash to pay a winner, but he’s got “The show must go on” in his fur. They’ll use “music and light to bring dreams to life,” by gosh.
And they’ll have their singers perform to backing tracks. No sense paying a stage orchestra union wages, after all.
The audition montage, an “American Idol” riff with a water buffalo crooning “Come come, my lady” (“Butterfly” by Crazy Town), a snail blasting through “Ride like the Wind” by Christopher Cross, a porcine exhibitionist (Nick Kroll) vamping Lady Gaga, is how they’ve been selling this in the trailers and TV commercials.
Don’t be fooled.
The movie is nothing more than that, with the finalists, voiced by McFarlane, Witherspoon, Johansson, Kroll, Brit Taron Egerton (as a sweet-voiced gorilla who doesn’t want to take up his dad’s bank heist trade) and Tori Kelly (as a shy elephant belter) rehearsing for the Big Show while Moon tries to keep the sky and his creditors from caving in.
There are two, maybe three laughs in this. No, the fart jokes don’t work. Any touching moments come from the inclusion of songs by famous musicians who have died in 2016 — pure accidents.
Love the message — “Don’t let fear stop you from doing the thing you love.”
And truthfully, McFarlane’s sax playing, self-absorbed jazzman may be the most appealing character he’s ever voiced. The animation is generic, even though a lot of effort was hurled at animating a Broadway “Zootopia,” with backstage intrigues, club scenes and a heist.
But “Sing” is only to be embraced for its music, from the stars singing cover tunes that include the late Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” to the incidental music which includes Pavarotti, Cyndi Lauper, George Michael, Queen with David Bowie and The Gipsy Kings.
So here’s a thought. Buy the kids the soundtrack, skip the movie.
MPAA Rating: PG for some rude humor and mild peril
Cast: The voices of Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth McFarlane, Tori Kelly, Taron Egerton, Nick Kroll, Jennifer Saunders and Jennifer Hudson
Running time: 1:48