Illumination Entertainment is an animation studio that has slowly but surely started to join the ranks of Pixar and DreamWorks in the industry. Since 2010, their calling card has been the popular Despicable Me franchise, which has produced two movies in the core series, as well as the ultra-lucrative spinoff Minions. This summer, their The Secret Life of Pets became another massive hit, earning mostly positive reviews (read ours) and scoring $366.4 million at the domestic box office. A sequel has already been confirmed and will be released in 2018.
The studio is back at it this holiday season with Sing, which tells the story of the koala bear Buster (Matthew McConaughey) organizing a singing competition for all the animals in the city in an attempt to save his struggling theater. Illumination has already put together a fairly visible marketing campaign for the project, with multiple trailers highlighting pigs, gorillas, snails, and elephants (among other species) demonstrating their vocal talents as they try to win the prize and realize their dreams. With a little over a month to go before the movie's premiere, the studio has now released another preview that you can watch above.
There are numerous similarities between this trailer and the ones that have come before, with the footage showing the same clips of multiple performances and hinting at certain plot details (Taron Egerton's Johnny doesn't want to be part of his father's gang). A key difference is that there's more focus on the individual contestants as opposed to the overall narrative, revealing the personal obstacles some of them have to overcome. For instance, Meena (Tori Kelly) suffers from anxiety and fear, and Ash (Scarlett Johansson) has endured a bad break-up and is looking to bounce back. Odds are, some of these arcs will be more fleshed out than others in the final film, but it's nice to see there are a variety of through lines to follow.
Sing screened at the Toronto International Film Festival during the fall, and the early response was positive. Many pundits were in agreement that the film is a heartfelt, entertaining crowd-pleaser that'll put a smile on anyone's face. That word-of-mouth should help Sing at the box office, where it will need any advantage it can get. The end of December is going to be quite crowded at the multiplex, with Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Assassin's Creed, and Passengers all vying for the money of ticket buyers. One thing that works in Sing's favor (as we've discussed before) is that it is the only movie in that time frame specifically targeting families and should be able to monopolize that core demographic.
All in all, Sing should be another winner for Illumination. It looks like an ernest blend of comedy and drama, buoyed by a great message for the audience (always pursue your dreams). Even if the movie doesn't reach the storytelling heights of recent animated offerings like Inside Out, Zootopia, or How to Train Your Dragon, it should still be a fun time at the movies and be a favorite for youngsters. You can rarely go wrong with talking animals, after all.
- Sing (2016) release date: Dec 21, 2016