Release Date: December 21, 2016
Director: Christophe Lourdelet, Garth Jennings
Writer: Garth Jennings
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton, Tori Kelly, Jennifer Saunders, Jenniger Hudson, Garth Jennings, Peter Serafinowicz, Nick Kroll, Beck Bennett, Jay Pharoah, Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones, Rhea Perlman, Laraine Newman, Adam Buxton, Brad Morris, Bill Farmer, Oscar Jennings, Leo Jennings, Caspar Jennings
MPAA Rating: PG
Runtime: 108 minutes
Production Company: Hammer & Tongs, Illumination Entertainment, Universal Pictures
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Drama
Budget: $75,000,000 (estimated)
The power of song has no end. It can either rally the troops for an expected victory, or spark a mood and help the blood flow through your body. Dipping its hand into the jar of greatest hits from the past few decades, Illumination took a little of both notions to create a fun loving film with cute animals to sell the show. They sold it well for the most part too. Whether you’re familiar with the song choices or not, they’re fun and will have you singing along with them. The decision to cast certain animals with distinct personalities or song choices was hilarious due to it contradicting with their real-life cultures. If you’re just wanting to escape for a few minutes to sing a few songs, this is great for that. If you’re wanting to see the next best animated film to add to your all-time favorites, it’s best to leave those expectations in the parking lot.
The reason to do that is, as mentioned before, many of these songs are songs you’ve heard before many years ago. That doesn’t mean they aren’t performed at the highest caliber possible, because they are. I found myself looking up songs I knew from the past and didn’t care about, because I wanted to hear them on my way home from the theater. If a film has that type of impact, it’s safe to say it accomplished something. One of those would be pulling together a great voice cast. From top to bottom these voice actors/actresses have everything and more to get you to root for them. The combination of their gracious voices, off screen personalities, and cute designs on screen, made for an interesting combination of entertainment.
The man running the show is a fury little koala, named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey), who takes advantage of others by sometimes using his charm and small agile body to run away from his problems. It isn’t anything that shines a bright light on his character, but for some reason he’s the guy in charge. What’s respectable about his character is that he never gives up. No matter how far he’s falling, he knows the only place left to go is up. It would’ve been nice to see him respond to a crisis as anyone else would, to share empathy with the audience, but his approach of always being optimistic possessed a ton of good will to aspire to. Taron Egerton’s role as Johnny was the best standout of them all. The moral dilemma he faced was a hard one to manage. He shined brighter than a star when it was time, and opened up a new relationship in his world that spoke volumes about love.
The next best aspect is the comedy that comes along with a few of the great characters. This film isn’t filled with jokes at all, but rather natural funny realistic moments that happen to everyone daily; running into a wall at random, giving someone a side eye because of a silly remark, or also having silly mishaps that would only happen in an animation. That’s important due to this film not only catering to children, but adults as well. Every age range can find something to enjoy here with it being hard not to. What is hard to find is an amount of passion for every other character’s side story. There are too many characters to care about when their plot lines are spread too thin.
Buster Moon is the main lead, and Johnny is the only strong standout; while everyone else just fades in the wind when they’re not on stage. It was funny to see Rosita (Resse Witherspoon) get her family together every morning, but other than that there was nothing about the story that made you care about how it concluded. The only things fascinating or different about this film are the animals and their cute designs. If they were swapped out for humans I feel this would have been scored only as fair at best, and for the studio to receive commercial gain. This is the story you’ve seen and heard one thousand times before, and if it wasn’t for the cute nature of the animals you wouldn’t care. It’s nothing new. If you can disregard all of that, you’ll still have a great time, because it ultimately doesn’t matter. What matters is unplugging for a little bit and singing along as if you have no care in the world; which will fill your spirits and lighten your day.