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September 11, 2016   •  Category: "Sing", Gallery Updates, Public Appearances, Video Updates0 Comments

Reese attended the Toronto Film Festival of her upcoming animated musical comedy Sing tonight, and looked gorgeous in a little silver patterned dress! Her dress was by Ulyana Sergeenko, with Christian Louboutin shoes and Irene Neuwirth jewellery. She was joined by her co-stars including Matthew McConaughey and Scarlett Johansson, and many of the producing team. This post will be updated with reviews, articles and videos, but for now, have a browse of the first HQ photos in our Galley…

Toronto Film Festival – “Sing” Premiere x22 44

etalk Red Carpet Interview

‘Sing’: Film Review | TIFF 2016

Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane and Scarlett Johansson are among the many stars lending their vocal cords to ‘Sing,’ an animated musical from the people who brought us ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘The Secret Life of Pets.’

Do you remember the scene at the very end of animation studio Illumination’s Despicable Me where Gru’s adopted daughters manage to persuade their new dad to come up on stage during their ballet recital and they all boogie together to the Bee Gees’ “You Should Be Dancing” with the minions? And Gru busts out the most amazing moves, and it’s all so perfectly animated, every hip shake and arched eyebrow calibrated down to the tiniest cartoon muscle, it draws tears? Well, Sing pulls off that trick for around 20 minutes straight in its last act, producing pure, sappy joy with a string of air-punching, applause-coaxing performances from nearly every main character as they put on a show right there, in a nearly derelict theater with a soundtrack album’s worth of crowd-pleasing tunes. It’s as corny as the syrup tank at a candy factory, but it works, and it will undoubtedly ensure enthusiastic enough word-of-mouth to keep this in cinemas long into the new year after it opens Dec. 21 in the U.S. and rolls out worldwide.

That said, and sorry to be a buzzkill, but it’s a bit of a shame that the rest of the film doesn’t achieve that same high standard. Illumination’s latest plays to the company’s strengths, with inventive character and background design, hyper-rendered animation that pushes the technology envelope especially in the realm of lighting, and cute sight gags. But just as with, for example, The Secret Life of Pets or Minions (and let’s not even go there with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax), storytelling remains the outfit’s weak spot.

It might be conjectured that the powers-that-be are aware of this and that might be one reason why British live-action writer-director Garth Jennings, who made the delightful homage to low-budget filmmaking Son of Rambow, was hired to oversee this. But the fit isn’t quite perfect, and while there’s much to admire about the script, not least the fact that’s an original concept in a sea of remakes, reimaginings and reboots, it doesn’t entirely gel. Maybe the problem is that at this point in 2016, the whole talent-show format that has so dominated television for the last 10 years or so finally feels exhausted and dreary.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t quite help Sing’s case that, so soon after Disney’s Zootopia, it unfolds in a world of bipedal talking animals living in another sprawling city. Sure, there have been articulate critters ever since Mickey Mouse started whistling and Betty Boop had long ears suggestive of her spaniel heritage, although the trope had fallen out of favor of late. Part of what made Zootopia effective was the way it not only revived the idea but also made the harmony or lack thereof in a multispecies society an integral part of the plot.

By way of contrast, in Sing there’s no reason within the story for one of its major characters, Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), to be a koala except that it means he’s cute. Also, his size serves well for an admittedly very funny car-wash gag halfway through. But he’s not even Australian. Buster is just another American-accented marsupial with a passion for showbiz, whose inciting idea to put on a talent show brings together the disparate characters that make up the roster talent assembled here. Unluckily for Buster, a typing mistake made by his faithful one-eyed lizard secretary and factotum Miss Crawly (voiced by Jennings himself) mistakenly reports the prize will be $100,000, not the $1,000 Buster has in his savings bank.

The money certainly motivates Mike, a mouse on the hustle whose abrasive, jerky quality is only enhanced by the fact he’s voiced by Seth MacFarlane. But money is only part of the lure for most of the other major characters, an assortment of mammalian hopefuls that includes: Rosita, a put-upon porcine mom of 25 (Reese Witherspoon); a teenage British gorilla (Taron Egerton) who doesn’t really want to follow his father (Peter Serafinowicz) into the family’s bank-robbing business; spiky porcupine punk Ash (Scarlett Johansson), whose acceptance onto the show jeopardizes her relationship with her rejected boyfriend (Beck Bennett); and Meena (Tori Kelly), the painfully shy elephant at the back of the room who is too scared to sing in front of others and ends up working as a stagehand for Buster.

With such a stellar cast on hand (even supporting and minor parts are voiced by the likes of Nick Offerman, Leslie Jones, Jennifer Saunders, Rhea Perlman and John C. Reilly, with singing support from the likes of Jennifer Hudson), it’s no surprise that Sing is a treat for both the ears and eyes. Apparently, the cast all sang their songs themselves, with surprisingly impressive results although who knows how much auto-tuning went into creating the finished soundtrack. Still, while it’s hardly a surprise to hear how well widely known quantities like Witherspoon and MacFarlane hit the high notes with covers of “Shake It Off” and “My Way,” respectively, those less familiar with Johansson’s parallel career as a chanteuse have a treat in store on hearing what she can do with an original song, “Set It All Free,” written for the film by producer-composer Dave Bassett. Likewise, Egerton’s boy-band balladeering represents another pleasant surprise.

One can only speculate at how many billable hours went toward intellectual-property lawyers for clearing the rights to the 65 different songs that are featured here. Some are merely snatches and phrases (hello pan-pipe theme from Once Upon a Time in America) which might have been free under the terms of fair use, but still, the music alone must have represented a big chunk of the budget, along with the above-the-line talent’s fees and the computing costs that went into rendering the film’s many dazzling traveling shots.


‘Sing’ Toronto Review: Illumination’s Animated Musical Doesn’t Need Minions to Charm

Can Illumination Entertainment’s animation czar Chris Meledandri pull a John Lasseter and become a critical darling to go along with the mint he’s made selling Minions merchandise?

On the evidence of Illumination’s “Sing,” which premiered on Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival, the answer is a conditional yes.

Directed by Garth Jennings from an idea by Meledandri, “Sing” isn’t a top-to-bottom knockout like the recent animated gems “Inside Out,” “The Lego Movie,” “Rango” and this year’s “Zootopia” and “Kubo and the Two Strings.” But it starts out fun and then sneaks up on you for a final stretch that is both rousing and genuinely emotional.

Sort of a “hey, kids, let’s put on a show” musical for the age of “American Idol” and “The Voice,” it follows a bargain-basement impresario (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) as he stages a singing competition in an attempt to save his theater from foreclosure.

Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Seth MacFarlane and others play an array of sidekicks and wannabe stars: a teenage gorilla who’s being pressured to join the family gang, an overworked pig mother of 25, an elephant too shy to sing in public …

For the first half of the movie, the stories come fast and furious, and so do the snippets of dozens of pop songs. It’s not frantic in the overly adrenalized manner of many animated films, but it’s something of a jumble nonetheless.

But when the characters hit rock bottom, the movie quietly gets more emotional and more sure-handed. It’s not easy to make us feel for animated characters who we’ve been laughing at, but we do, as the repeated applause in Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre showed.

Of course it helps that the film makes use of some genuinely great pop songs, including Stevie Wonder’s “Doncha Worry ‘Bout a Thing,” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and especially the Beatles’ “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight.”

Sure, a couple of those songs are pretty overused — but as a post-screening performance by Jennifer Hudson and Tori Kelly showed, the darn things also work.

And so does “Sing.” In an extremely strong year for animation, Illumination has taken a big step up.

(The Wrap)

‘Sing’ Is ‘Pitch Perfect’ With Some Crowd Pleasing Animation And That’s A Compliment [TIFF Review]

Sometimes you just can’t hate a movie. It may annoy you. It may make your eye rolls a bit, but eventually you just succumb to the sheer entertainment of it all. That’s the case with Garth Jennings’ “Sing” which had its world premiere at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival Sunday afternoon.

The Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment production is Jennings’ first animated feature after critical and cult favorites “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” and “Son of Rambow.” His strong eye serves him well here as he purposefully has the camera zig and zag around the animated landscape of a San Diego-like city filled with talking and walking animals (“Zootopia” who?) and throws in a slew of creative visual ideas you don’t expect here and there (many of which should simply not be spoiled). The only problem is that a lot of those winning compositions don’t occur until the final half of the movie. The beginning is a bit rougher.

“Sing” sets up its story line – and it’s a predicable one – quite simply. Koala bear Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) has been a fan of live theater since he was a little boy and his father saved up as much money as he could to help him buy an old showpalace downtown. Buster, however, is not a as good a businessman as he is a showman. He’s desperate for a hit to stave off the bank and workers he hasn’t been able to pay off and he decides to have a singing contest to help raise the money he needs (seriously, don’t think about the logic or familiarity of this scenario too much). Unfortunately, his faithful assistant Ms. Crawly (Jennings) is a lizard who is a bit off her kilter and misprints the cash prize on the audition flyer as $100,000 instead of $1,000 without Buster’s knowledge. It’s no surprise then that a huge contingent of different animals appear at the auditions and sing a wide range of popular songs that mom, dad, your niece and even Aunt Sue will recognize.

Buster’s finalists turn out to be somewhat of a motley crew. He pairs the oh so very flamboyant pig Gunter (a fantastic Nick Kroll) with Rita (Reese Witherspoon), the mother of 25 piglets with an internal diva waiting to step into the spotlight. There’s Ash (Scarlett Johansson), the punk rock porcupine that needs her own solo act from her boyfriend to truly shine. Bringing some attitude is Mike the mouse (Seth Macfarlane playing Seth Macfarlane), an old-school crooner who is as bad at money as Buster. Johnny (Taron Egerton) is a teenage gorilla with a heartwarming voice that has no desire to be part of his dad’s robbery gang and somehow ends up unintentionally putting him in jail. And, last but not least, the shyest unknown elephant superstar of them all, Meena (Tori Kelly). Jennings has made sure they each have a plotline and some are more powerful than others. For instance, Mike’s problems with a bunch of bears he owes money too feels a bit too similar to Buster’s problems, while Johnny’s semi-estranged relationship with his dad (Peter Serafinowicz) completely works.

One of the most impressive aspects about “Sing” is just how well the entire cast can, well, sing. Egerton’s voice is jaw-droppingly impressive and you can imagine anyone looking for the next young musical lead will seriously give him a major look after this one. Johansson has already proved her musical chops before and is stellar again here. And, obviously, Grammy nominee Kelly makes Meena’s third act reveal as powerful as it needs to be.

It my seem flippant to compare “Sing” to another Universal property, “Pitch Perfect,” but in many ways its truly an apt and positive comparison. The first parts of both movies are a mix of laughs and some clunky plot points, but when anyone sings? When the big show finally happens at the end of the picture? You can’t help but smile. [B+]

“Sing” was screened as a “work in progress” which was somewhat ridiculous as there wasn’t a technical glitch to be found, but so be it.

“Sing” opens nationwide on Dec. 21.

(The Playlist)

Sing review – pitch-perfect porcupines have the X factor in jukebox musical

To many of us, “formulaic” is a negative term. But for mainstream family entertainment destined to live a franchise life after the initial film has long left the theatres, working within a well-worn structure is the key to success. Sing, from Illumination (the animation company that made Minions), feels less like a movie than a genetic mutation developed in a laboratory. It has just the right measurements of simple humour, heart, kawaii-levels of cuteness, zany chase sequences, fart jokes and catchy tunes. The sales pitch – American Idol but in a world like Zootopia – is one of those “why didn’t I think of that?” home runs. But that’s only part of it. Sing is structured like a jukebox musical, so it’s wall-to-wall popular songs that everybody knows just from going to the supermarket. Indeed, one of Sing’s big numbers comes when Gipsy Kings’ Bamboleo, which has appeared in television advertisements for years, pipes in over a supermarket PA system. It may be a talking pig with 25 children and dreams of being a star that’s pushing the cart, but it is also you and me.

The songs, like everything else in this streamlined affair, are chosen meticulously, from right now or the 1980s. In other words, half for the nine-year-olds, half for their parents. So there’s a cute gorilla singing Elton John, a porcupine singing Carly Rae Jepsen, a happy pig dancing to Taylor Swift and an elephant grooving to Stevie Wonder. God, it’s so obnoxious. And the worst thing is that it works. I was smiling and applauding at the end, then I had to take a long walk alone to wonder what was wrong with me.

There are a million characters in Sing (which is 110 minutes, when it should be 85) so I’ll just hit you with the big ones: Buster Moon (a koala bear voiced by Matthew McConaughey) is a theatre impresario with big dreams, but prone to disaster. Buster decides that his way out of debt is to put on a big competition to get the best voices in the city on stage. All his resources add to $1,000, but a Brazil-esque Buttle/Tuttle typing error adds two zeroes to his announcement. Soon, everyone wants to join the show, and this includes Taron Egerton as a gorilla from a family of criminals, Seth MacFarlane as a Rat Pack-like mouse, Tori Kelly as an elephant with a big voice but tremendous stage fright, and many others.

The backstage drama is sub-Muppet Movie, but this was never meant to be François Truffaut’s The Last Metro: it’s a delivery system for beloved pop hits sung by dancing cartoon animals. The creature design isn’t all that inspired, but some of the animation sequences are. A scene in which the theatre floods with water is truly enthralling and the funniest bit in the whole movie – when the koala bear and his sheep pal decide to turn their bodies into a car wash – is hilarious. It’s unfortunate there’s so little of this and so much of hearing these actors (Scarlett Johansson and John C Reilly are also in the cast) belt out 18-second clips of Katy Perry, Sam Smith or Kanye West tunes.

Grumbles aside, Sing is going to make more money at the box office than the gross national product of many small countries. My 10-year-old niece (who quite enjoys singing) will want to see it eight times. She’ll want to see the sequel and the direct-to-DVD spinoffs and she’ll want to go to the tie-in events at Universal Studios. As cinema, this isn’t anything I’m too enthused about. As a business triumph, there’s reason to sing its praises.

(The Guardian)

‘Sing’: Toronto Review

Given the popularity of TV vocal contests and the spontaneity of reality shows, it was only a matter of time before an animated feature-length hybrid of the two came along. The warmhearted and well-meaning Sing is fiction, and its backstage comedy is scripted, with dream-team talent. It should rake in profits at its Christmas release.

Sing (shown in Toronto as a work in progress that looks quite complete) looks like tentpole heaven, with cute wacky animals revealing their reality-style quirky life stories before belting their hearts out. Characters like these are also readymade for a sequel, sustained until that happens by a flood of merchandise. Given talent shows are staple of television throughout the world no, the film’s global reach could be, as Donald Trump might say, YUGE!

This sentimental collaboration between Universal and Illumination (Minions) hearkens back to the kind of story told in A Chorus Line, the long-running Broadway musical (also a movie) about actors in the musical theatre who are desperate to get the next job. The script by director Garth Jennings builds that tension around a theatre-owner, Buster Moon (a koala impresario voiced heartily by Matthew McConaughey), struggling to keep his house open. He comes up with the not-so-novel idea of staging a contest to raise cash.

The gambit – no surprise – draws a gaggle of misfits, auditioning wildly, eventually finding their way into a group hug, in a warm safe home of a theatre. It’s a Hollywood cartoon with a French flavour thanks to Illumination’s team, and Jennings manages to twist in a few dark turns on the way. Before the theatre can host its contest, for which a misprint offers a $100,000 prize, a tank of illuminated squid explodes, causing a tsunami that levels the building. So Sing is also a disaster movie.

The singers with nowhere else to go end up saving the day – Scarlett Johansson voicing a punk porcupine hat which shoots out quills on the high notes, Seth McFarlane as mouse with a Sinatra voice, Reese Witherspoon as a sow with 25 piglets, Tori Kelly as a shy elephant, and a menagerie corralled by Jennings himself voicing an old female lizard which seems intended to make the shell of a ruined theatre feel like Noah’s ark. Yet that’s the only biblical reference here: Christmas songs are nowhere in this Christmas season movie, although much of the rest of the music is recognisable, with Leonard Cohen’s hymn, Hallelujah, sung by Kelly the timid elephant in a show-stopping arrangement. Jennifer Hudson’s operatic take on Lennon and McCartney’s Carry That Weight is another.

There are moments here when the sheer audacity of the technical/dramatic pyrotechnics outshines the music – McFarlane’s mouse croons My Way, as a helicopter above searching for an escaped gorilla creates a cyclone. Witherspoon’s pig dances a spirited heavyweight pas de deux. Sing has all the makings of a sure crowd-pleaser, especially if Kelly and Hudson help market the film in key cities with large television markets, as they did with solos and a duet onstage at the Toronto premiere. It also helps that the title is as easy to remember as Glee.

The movie lacks a Simon Cowell villain in a panel of judges – what’s a singing contest without cruelty? – but this animal kingdom does have its predators. They don’t get away with much, however, which will make Sing sit well with parents of young children who may want to see it multiple times. Sing does have some action sequences that veer crazily in unexpected directions, including a clever car-washing scene with live talking animal skins (what else?) There are also tech mishaps onstage that come right out of the 1930’s backstage comedies, which this musical also salutes.

The sheer variety of animal characters and caricatures goes far beyond the yellow and blue palette of Minions, Illumination’s earlier hit franchise. Sing is colourful, yet at almost two hours, it is also long. Still, if kids aren’t drawn to one singing animal (or familiar voice), there’s always another around the corner, holding up the tentpole.

(Screen Daily)

As ‘Sing’ And Its Battery Of Stars Hit Toronto, Chris Meledandri’s Decision To Stick With It Suddenly Makes Sense

It was a shock when NBC Universal announced the management team for its newly acquired DreamWorks Animation a few weeks ago, and Chris Meledandri, founder and chief of the parent company’s Illumination Entertainment unit, was nowhere to be found. Meledandri had been widely expected to take a role over both Illumination and DreamWorks.

But at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday, Meledandri’s logic in sticking with Illumination for the moment suddenly became clear: He and his studio have a big, rollicking, star-filled labor of love on their hands in Sing, an animated song-fest that just had its world premiere at the festival. This is Meledandri’s baby. The film was directed by Garth Jennings, who was known for the idiosyncratic indie comedy Son of Rambow. But Meledandri, who has a big Chris Meledandri Production credit on Sing, thought it up, and is determined to see it through, starting with a debut that may have delivered the year’s biggest battery of celebrity-power to Toronto.

Among those who took the stage on Sunday were Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Scarlett Johansson, Tori Kelly and Taron Egerton, all of whom voice parts in the film. Kelly and Jennifer Hudson performed after the screening. Jennings introduced the movie, but mostly he introduced Meledandri. “Five years ago, he had this momentous idea, and he wanted me to collaborate on it,” Jennings said.

In truth, the idea itself is absurdly simple. Animated animals, led by a failing impresario koala voiced by McConaughey, decide to save a failing theater by putting on a show. It’s a plot as old as Ruby Keeler. But it delivers with an energy, intricacy, and nonstop attention to detail that can only have come from the kind of creative executive who falls in love with a project, and would rather ride it all the way to its release on Dec. 21 than trust it to the fates while turning to a new challenge like DreamWorks.

Up in the balcony at the Princess of Wales theater, it all began to make sense. By the end of the film, viewers in the audience—grown-ups and children alike—were applauding the furry, computer-animated performers as if they were real. They had forgotten they were watching a movie about a show. It really was a show, a good one—and Meledandri was right not to let go.


Toronto Film Review: ‘Sing’

The studio responsible for ‘Despicable Me’ and ‘The Secret Life of Pets’ outdoes itself with this catchy jukebox musical.

If it weren’t for the four little Minions who flex their pipes at the opening of “Sing,” you wouldn’t necessarily know that the massively entertaining jukebox musical that follows hails from the same studio that brought you “Despicable Me” and “The Secret Life of Pets.” The story of an underdog koala who concocts a singing competition as a last-ditch attempt to save his over-extended theater, “Sing” could just as easily be the work of Pixar, DreamWorks, or Walt Disney Animation Studios. (To wit, more than a few savvy parents will probably pass this off as the “Zootopia” sequel their kids have been wanting.) But for Illumination Entertainment, “Sing” is a game-changer, underscoring why company founder Chris Meledandri is the hottest name in animation today.

Both “Sing” and “Pets” sprung from original ideas hatched by Meledandri, but unlike the latter (which has earned $789 million worldwide to date), “Sing” takes place in a world entirely populated by animals. Whereas “Zootopia” cleverly delved into the dynamics of such an arrangement, “Sing” takes this interspecies arrangement for granted and wastes no time trying to explain the logistics: The story may as well be set among humans, only the characters are much cuter as critters (and yet, if there’s one area that Illumination seriously needs to improve, it’s character design).

Our protagonist is a generic-looking koala named Buster Moon, whose personality owes entirely to Matthew McConaughey, who locates the sweet spot between tireless optimist and slippery con artist in the otherwise underwritten character. At age six, Buster fell in love with musical theater, setting aside his dreams of becoming the first marsupial on the moon, and instead investing his father’s life savings in a run-down Broadway-style theater, where he accomplishes the next best thing, emceeing each performance from a shiny gold crescent suspended from the rafters. Trouble is, his choice in shows has been a disaster, and the llama who’s been lending him money at the bank is about to repossess the stage.

Like all of Illumination’s movies, “Sing” isn’t shy about recycling clichés from other animated movies, although it’s surprising that writer-director Garth Jennings’ wobbly script (which masks its shortcomings with a steady stream of jokes) ignores the most obvious one: Rather than suggesting that what Buster needs to do is put on a really personal show, it reinforces his decision to sell out and host an amateur singing competition instead. But then, we live in the era of “American Idol,” and there’s no point lecturing those who believe in the illusion of natural-born talent and instant discovery on the importance of hard work. Why write your own music when there are so many catchy, if disposable pop songs you could be covering instead? (Still, if there’s any justice, the Dave Bassett-supplied original number “Set It All Free” will be the one audiences come away singing.)

Due to a slight miscommunication with his longtime assistant, Miss Crawly (a dotty old chameleon whom Jennings voices himself), the promotional fliers offer a grand prize of $100,000 to the winner — which happens to be $99,000 more than Buster has to his name. What follows is a kid-friendly riff on Broadway’s “A Chorus Line,” in which a wildly diverse batch of naturally talented singers show up to audition, offering Jennings the chance to delve into each of their surprisingly deep personal lives. Animation allows the film to zip along at five times the pace of a live-action movie, compressing teenage relationship troubles (as experienced by Ash, Scarlett Johansson’s emotionally vulnerable porcupine), marital doldrums (Reese Witherspoon plays Rosita, an overworked pig saddled with 25 kids and an exhausted hubby), and unreasonable parental pressure (“Kingsman’s” Taron Egerton is Johnny, a gorilla forced to take a stand against his dad’s criminal lifestyle in order to follow his own dreams) into vignettes that might normally take far longer to unfold.

While there are no profound life lessons to be found in these subplots, Jennings and his cast manage to deliver a steady supply of laughs, while respecting one of Illumination’s core principles: It’s OK to be silly, which is especially true of the behavior to be found backstage, where a Teutonic attention hog (Nick Kroll, doing his best Flula Borg impression) and a group of J-pop pups threaten to steal the show. The auditions themselves are a quick-cut flurry of singer-to-song mismatch gags (three bunnies take a crack at “Baby Got Back,” a snail covers Christopher Cross’ “Ride Like the Wind”), making for a side-splitting sequence that represents a nearly unfathomable amount of work for music supervisor Jojo Talbot and Universal’s legal team — who also had to get clearances on hits by Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Frank Sinatra (the latter crooned by Seth MacFarlane, no stranger to animation). The “Family Guy” creator has the perfect voice for Mike, a mouse with an ego big enough for an elephant, while Grammy-nominated newcomer Tori Kelly plays, Meena, a mousy pachyderm trying to work up the nerve to perform in front of a crowd.

Just when you think you’ve figured out how Buster will raise the prize money (Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Saunders split the role of retired theater diva Nana Noodleman) and who will win it, Jennings’ script takes a spectacularly unexpected turn, humbling Buster and his woolly enabler Eddie (John C. Reilly), who hilariously redeem themselves by swallowing their pride and washing cars. But the show must go on, and “Sing” launches itself into the stratosphere with a radically reconceived version of Buster’s talent contest, in which multiple subplots coalesce as each of the principal characters gets his or her moment in the spotlight, each one more impressive than the last.


‘Sing’ Swings Into Oscar Race & The Power Of Holocaust Film ‘Denial’ Cannot Be Denied – Toronto

“Some thirty-something hipster agents keep stopping me to say it is the best thing they have ever seen,” Illumination chief Chris Meledandri told me moments after the World Premiere of the new animated feature Sing had wrapped and he arrived at the after-party at Montecito Restaurant. The film, which depicts an American Idol-style audition for a group of singing animals, was an instant hit at a packed screening at the Princess Of Wales Theatre Sunday afternoon.

The move, an unusual one for a big holiday major studio ‘toon, made a statement here at the Toronto International Film Festival that this film would not only be a major hit and priority for Universal and Illumination, but that it would also be an awards player in the unusually heavy Animated Feature competition this year. Showing up with a splashy event at TIFF is one way to do it, and with voiceover stars Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and Scarlett Johansson on hand, along with a post mini-concert of a few of the film’s 65 songs by co-stars Jennifer Hudson and Tori Kelly, the fans went wild, both outside where the biggest crowd I have seen here in a long time strained to get photos, and inside where the crowd with tickets was equally enthusiastic.

When I asked Meledandri if he was surprised by the reception he definitely answered in the affirmative. “I was surprised because in the 30 years I have been in the business I have never seen anything like it, not with Ice Age, not with Despicable Me, not with Minions,” he said. It is rare that every song gets applause from the audience, but this film did that. Universal’s Ron Meyer was among those showing support at the after-party and he told me he was certainly thrilled with the reaction as well. And why not? Illumination has become Universal’s most reliable cash cow, with one hit after another, most recently this summer’s smash The Secret Life Of Pets. And I think Sing could equal it and put the studio in the Oscar race in the ani feature category.



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