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dir-scr Garth Jennings
prd Christopher Meledandri, Janet Healy
voices Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Seth MacFarlane, Taron Egerton, John C Reilly, Jennifer Saunders, Nick Offerman, Tori Kelly, Nick Kroll, Leslie Jones, Jennifer Hudson
release US 21.Dec.16, UK 27.Jan.16
16/US Universal 1h50
Let's put on a show: Johnny, Rosita and Gunter
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
With a rousing collection of subplots and a lot of fantastic music, this wacky animated comedy more than makes up for its plasticky design and too-frenetic action. It also features a bunch of thoroughly likeable characters who travel through their own meaningful journeys, engaging the audience at every step along the way.
In a coastal city populated by animals, Buster (McConaughey) runs the theatre that won his heart when he was a young koala. But no one is coming to see his shows, so he decides to hold a musical competition, accidentally offering a $100,000 prize. Scores turn up for auditions, and he selects punk porcupine Ash (Johansson), crooning wise-guy mouse Mike (MacFarlane) and soulful gorilla Johnny (Egerton). He also teams up housewife pig Rosita (Witherspoon) with porcine German dancer Gunter (Kroll), and puts elephant Meena (Kelly) on stagehand duty when she's too timid to sing.
Each character has a strong storyline. Action comes as Mike runs afoul of a gang of bears and Johnny struggles to admit he doesn't want to join his family in the heist business. Ash and Meena have very different struggles to find their voice. Rosita grapples both with managing her busy home and learning a new skill. And there's ongoing tension for Buster as the bank closes in on him, so he turns to pal Eddie (Reilly) and his rich diva aunt (Saunders) for help.
In other words, the film is pretty crowded, but writer-director Jennings keeps all of the balls in the air without too much trouble. Everything surges along briskly, darting between plot-strands with a constant barrage of visual and verbal gags. There's also a terrific collection of music, from standard ballads to rock classics and current hits. The use of the Beatles' Golden Slumbers as a recurring theme is particularly effective. Plus of course a knowing pastiche of music competitions, including a hilarious montage of ridiculous auditions.
Having such a range of characters allows Jennings to keep both kids and adults entertained, and also connected to the stories' deeper ideas. Around the central message about pursuing dreams, the film has some nice things to say about the power of art, the importance of a work-life balance and the need to see people for who they are rather than who we want them to be. But none of this is shouted very loudly, as the goal is clearly to get the audience singing along with the characters and laughing at their silly antics.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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