It may help that I have now seen Illumination Entertainment and Universal’s wonderful new animated holiday entry Sing twice (at the Toronto Film Festival, and at last Saturday’s premiere), where both screenings were followed by killer concerts featuring Jennifer Hudson and Tori Kelly and in Los Angeles also Stevie Wonder. But this tuneful (there are 65 songs) toon works on any level, so the live performances aren’t really necessary to put me on a high. The movie, beautifully written and directed by Garth Jennings, does it all on its own.

Deadline Review Badge Pete Hammond

As I say in my video review above, you can think of this as a kind of cross between American Idol and Zootopia, and believe me it all works. The basic plot has an entrepreneurial koala, Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), trying to make ends meet and save his theater, so he devises a big singing competition with a $1000 prize.

Unfortunately, his elderly lizardly assistant Miss Crawley (Jennings does this voice hilariously) accidentally adds some zeros and the flyers literally fly out the office window announcing a $100,000 prize instead. Of course this instantly brings out all the creatures in town with dreams of fame and riches. They include the overwhelmed mother pig Rosita (Reese Witherspoon), who sees this as a huge opportunity; Meena the elephant (Kelly, who belts out Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry Bout A Thing”); Mike (Seth MacFarlane), a belligerent mouse who sounds like Sinatra; Ash (Scarlett Johansson), the porcupine with an original song; Johnny (Taron Egerton), the gorilla whose dad is incarcerated; and so many others voiced by the likes of Nick Kroll (a riot as Gunter), Nick Offerman and the always great John C. Reilly.

Hudson is the voice of the young Nana Noodleman, a patron of the arts with the money to save the day for Buster if he can impress her. The older Nana is voiced by Jennifer Saunders, but it is Hudson who really brings the house down with the Lennon-McCartney classic “Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight.” In all, in what might be a clearance nightmare, there are 65 songs from numerous musical eras including a new one over the end credits titled “Faith” that is sung by Wonder with Ariana Grande. It is a barn-burner of a toe-tapper that could be a staple in churches everywhere, and anywhere else you can imagine.

Sing quite frankly has it all, including first-rate animation, great characters, lively music and a spirit and heart that goes on for miles. It would be hard to imagine a better gift for the holidays, and add this to La La Land and you have a Christmas season coming up that should have everyone singing, and what could be better for these dark times? On top of the great big summer smash The Secret Life Of Pets, Illumination and Universal have another solid hit on their hands, a genuine crowd-pleaser.

Chris Meledandri (of course ) produced along with Janet Healy. Universal releases it on December 21. Do you plan to see Sing? Let us know what you think.