Monday, June 24, 2013

Review 174: "Monsters University"

"I expect big things from you."

Summer School

      Pixar's is in a scary place right now. While Toy Story 3 was great and I myself really liked Cars 2, Brave feel very flat and overall it just kinda feels like Pixar doesn't seem to have the same perfection quality last seen in Wall-e. I don't know, it just seems like, not matter how good the films since them have been, they just don't seem to have that Pixar feeling. However, Monsters University, a prequel to 2001's Monsters Inc., aims to change that. Directed by Dan Scanlon (Mater and the Ghostlight) and written by Scanlon, Daniel Gerson (Monsters, Inc.) and Robert L. Baird, the film follows Mike (Billy Crystal) as he travels to Monsters University to become a scarer. Soon, he develops a rivalry with jock Sully (John Goodman) to become top of the class. That is until the two are faced with expulsion after an accident and the learn that the only way to stay in school is to best Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) and win a scaring competition. Facing off against top seat rival Johnny (Nathan Fillion), the two team up with older student Don (Joel Murray), new age student Art (Charlie Day), two-headed Terry (Dave Foley) and Terri (Sean Hayes) and Squishy (Peter Sohn), the group attempt to win the Scare Games and become scarers.

A Brief Word About Umbrellas

      Before the Monsters U review, there is a short film before the main attraction. The Blue Umbrella, directed by Saschka Unseld, the short follows two umbrellas as the fall in love and are kept apart during a rain storm. The fact the the whole thing is animated is absolutely stunning and may very well be the best animation I have ever seen. The rest of the short, though, is fine and cute, but nothing all that special for what is basically last year's Paperman with umbrellas.

The amount of time put into character designs must
be huge.
Blast From the Past

      In case you couldn't do math, this prequel comes nearly 12 years after the original. I saw the original in theaters when I was 5. I think I get what people were talking about when Toy Story 3 came out. Monsters University was easily one of my most-anticipated films of the year and I am very happy to say that it didn't disappoint. I love the original and honestly grew up with it, so seeing the characters back again is great, especially with college in my horizon as well. However, a lot of your enjoyment of this film might come from how much you can put the original out of your mind. It still has to overcome the normal problems prequels have to overcome, like how we know how it all turns out and how a lot of the character development from the first film is now gone. The fact that we know that scaring isn't actually good and children aren't actually toxic might put a damper on things, but if you can get that out of your mind, you are in for a great time. 

College Humor

      Monsters University is a very funny movie. I laughed a lot and frequently, which is always good in a comedy. The characters of Mike and Sully still work well together, even with Mike's previous role of slight jerk and Sully's previous role of moral do-gooder swapped around this time. Where as in Inc. had Sully be our main character, here Mike takes center stages and the change-up works well. The new characters aren't the greatest, probably because there are so many of them, but they are almost instantly likable and are more than enough from a supporting cast. Plus, it's always fun to look for Pixar's easter eggs and the nods to the first film, specifically a subplot involving Randall (Steve Bushemi) and so winking nods to some jokes in the original.

The Third Act

      There is one problem with the humor though and that's that it doesn't allow for as much meaning or emotion as the original packed in, mostly because Monsters feels a little less like Monsters without Boo. It's not that the film didn't lack emotion, it just seemed to have shifted focus toward humor and intensity. I'll admit even though we all know how this works out in the original, I still was on the edge of my seats at some points in the movies. Especially in the final act, which has Mike and Sully teaming up to get out of a bad spot. I won't give much else away, but it is a great climax and proves that Pixar should make the next Friday the 13th movie. Oh, and that they still got it.

There rivalry began when Sully mistook Mike
for an M&M.
The Verdict

      Do yourself a favor. See Monsters University. Like now. While the film might not pack the original's emotion and might not prove to be as good if you can't put the original in your rear-view mirrors, for those who grew up with the characters, this is a welcome return to the world of Monsters. The film is downright hilarious and action-packed. The final act ranks up there with some of Pixar's best and the film is one of the most enjoyable films I have seen this year. Monsters University is gonna be a tough act to beat. Monsters University gets 6 stars out of 6.

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