- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 22, 2017

An anthropomorphic cast of talented animal vocalists warms the hearts of home theater viewers in the animated musical Sing: Special Edition (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG, 110 minutes, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, $44.98).

Now available to potentially dazzle in the ultra high-definition format, the story stars a spunky, but business challenged, koala bear named Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) who concocts a plan to create a live, singing competition to rescue his failing theater.

The wacky citizens from the town eventually chosen to perform include Ash (Scarlett Johansson), a punkie porcupine with a pop voice; Meena (Tori Kelly), an elephant with an awesome voice but stage fright; Johnny (Taron Egerton), a teenage crooning gorilla with a criminal father; Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a Sinatra-esque mouse; and Rosita (Reese Witherspoon) and Gunter (Nick Kroll), a pair of dancing and singing pigs.

However, when disaster strikes the theater, it will take the tenacity of the performers and a rousing “the show must go on” attitude for the competition to succeed.



The voice-over cast makes up for any of the clichéd plot deficiencies from director and screenwriter Garth Jennings.

Viewers will especially enjoy Mr. McConaughey’s enthusiasm and the singing of Miss Kelly (“Don’t You Worry ‘bout a Thing” and “Hallelujah”), Mr. Egerton (“I’m Still Standing”) and Miss Witherspoon and Mr. Kroll (“Venus”).

I’ll also admit to an occasional laugh watching a snail perform Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like The Wind” or appreciating the antics of a rapping yak and Gunter cutting the rug.

However, despite its success at the box office, I found the film never attained the beauty or emotions of a “Moana,” “Kubo and the Two Strings” or “Zootopia,” nor did it have as many laughs as any of the “Despicable Me” films.

4K UHD in action: In a first for this reviewer, the Blu-ray version of the film actually looked better than the 2160p counterpart, both available in the package.

I’ll normally use a setting on my television that takes advantage of the high-dynamic-range imaging processing available on this digital transfer to offer spectacular viewing.

However, that setting caused a washing out of the whites that crept into some of the imagery. Any other setting on the television did not help. The transfer never offered the same brilliance, clarity and pop seen in many other 4K UHD releases.

Now, the Blu-ray version, without HDR, and my normal non-HDR setting offered a much warmer appreciation of the visuals and the ability to scrutinize such minutia as gorilla fur, worn leather jacket lapels and character models that looked like large stuffed animals.

Scenes of Meena removing glass panels out of a window using her trunk suction and florescent stage lighting powered by squids were quite impressive.

The Dolby Atmos soundtrack, available on both the 4K UHD and Blu-ray discs, highlights the singing but did not really take advantage of the sound-enveloping technology.

Best extras: A trio on shorts found on the 4K UHD disc offers a chance to watch Gunter babysit (3:48), Ms. Crawly the iguana entering the world of online dating (4:19) and Eddie the sheep getting help from a life coach to keep living with his parents (4:17). It’s fun for the kiddies and mildly amusing for the adults.

Alas, all of the other extras are found on the Blu-ray disc.

First, the three mini-movies are repeated but also feature an optional introduction by some of the production staff and artists.

Next and, best of the bunch, is 13 minutes worth of character profiles, as explained by the voice over celebrity for each animal, including words from Mr. McConaughey, Miss Witherspoon, Miss Kelly, Mr. Egerton and Mr. Kroll.

For animation connoisseurs, only two short featurettes, totaling roughly 7-minutes long, offer a behind the scenes look at the making of the cartoon.

For youngsters inspired by the performing arts, they can sing along to a pair of music videos (“Faith” and “Set It All Free”) or mimic dance moves from performers inspired by the song “Faith.”

A final area of extras worth noting for children is collection of four faux commercials for some of the character’s businesses such as Gunter’s Dance Studio.

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