Sing Out

One more movie review–or perhaps “commentary” would be a better word–to round out the year. No, not Rogue One. It’s on my list, and was even before the news about Carrie Fisher broke, but I haven’t seen it yet.

Back when I was in library school, one of the big debates was “Should libraries carry the books people want to read or the books they should read?” I’d be willing to bet it’s still a hot topic in library schools, even though the answer became obvious several decades ago: “Yes”.

Sing is the cinematic incarnation of the books at the heart of that debate. Think The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Baby-Sitters Club, or Goosebumps.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s a bad movie. It sets out to appeal to a very specific audience, and by and large, it succeeds. The thing is, that audience is kids. The plot is formulaic, yes, but how many versions of it will the average ten-year-old have seen already?

The characters are anthropomorphic animals, not as commentary on the human condition, but because kids like cute animals. There are plot holes you could throw an elephant through (sorry), but the kids aren’t paying attention to that: the plot is just an excuse to stage the set-scenes they expect. And so the sudden switch from a furry America’s Got Talent to a furry interpretation of the Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney “Let’s put on a show” trope passes unremarked by the target audience.

It is possible to make a movie catering to the pre-teen audience that also appeals to adults–see my comments on The BFG, for an example–but that’s not the direction Sing chose. And it works beautifully for the target audience. We saw Sing in a theater full of kids, mostly between eight and twelve, and they had a grand time, laughing in the right places, and applauding at the end.

And the creators did use a commendable amount of restraint. There is a flatulence joke–but only one. There are body image jokes, but far fewer than I expected, and mostly in the mouths of characters who are supposed to be obnoxious. There’s a running joke about the characters who don’t speak English*, but the joke isn’t run into the ground. (Parenthetically, if someone with more knowledge of Japanese than I have wants to translate the insult Buster Moon reads out of his phrase book, I’d appreciate it.)

* The red panda idol group’s songs are by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, but the color-coded outfits reminded me more of Momoiro Clover Z.

Bottom line: if you’ve got kids in the target age group who want to see Sing, you won’t need tranquilizers to get through it. Crank your suspension of disbelief up to eleven, turn off your facility for critical thinking, and go. It won’t do you or the kids any permanent damage.

4 thoughts on “Sing Out

  1. Go see Rogue One, late enough that there won’t be 8 year olds in the audience. Christ.

    By me, there is a special hell for people who pander to the juvenility of juveniles — isn’t the whole object of childhood to grow the fuck up and stop being a fatuous ignoramus?

    And in that context, the Hardy boys and Nancy Drew aren’t that bad. But I saw the trailers for Sing (at Rogue One). I think making them stay home and clean up the yard would do a better service.

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    • I’ll agree to some extent. Stop being a fatuous ignoramus (assuming you are one in the first place), sure. But grow up? If it means losing the ability to groove behind a guitar-playing porcupine, heck no.

      Don’t judge Sing by the previews–I saw several of them, and it really was much better than they implied, even from my semi-adult perspective.

      Agreed that Nancy, Frank, and Joe (and Tom Swift and a few others I could think of) aren’t that bad. Formulaic, not always as well plotted as they could have been, and very much products of their time, but they do promote some amount of critical thinking and logical analysis.

      But there’s also a place for “Follow your dream” in language an eight-year-old can understand. Which Rogue One certainly isn’t.

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      • Well, if one isn’t supposed to judge a movie by the previews, you have to wonder what previews are for. Granted, that trailer wasn’t as obnoxious as about six others I saw at the same theater which were entirely about blowing things up so far as I could tell – appealing to a different type of childishness, I suppose you could say.

        There’ve been some good stories written and filmed for children, but there is so much gimmick and trash out there it’s overwhelming, and I think the general effect is to encourage them to stay children, which is exactly the opposite of what we want them to do. Everything can’t be turned into animated pigs. I’m afraid we’re just in for a whole lot of this stuff because the technology has reached a new plateau and everyone will want to play with it.

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      • Not judging a movie by the previews isn’t a general rule. Just in this particular case, the previews do a lousy job of capturing the gestalt of the film.

        I’d also suggest not blaming the technology for the message it’s used to deliver. One can make good movies and bad movies with animated pigs, after all–whether they’re computer-animated or hand-drawn.

        I’m not trying to convince you that Sing is wonderful and you should go see it–it’s not, and you shouldn’t. But it’s not as bad, or as bad for those who do see it, as much of the press it’s getting claims.

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