Thursday, June 20

Monsters University Review

Monsters University
Dir: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, and Helen Mirren

The monsters are lurking in the dorm rooms in Monsters University, the prequel to Pixar’s inventive 2001 film Monsters, Inc. Pixar, the benchmark for animation in recent years, has found success with their focus on storytelling and character development; look no further than the first ten minutes of Pixar’s Up for an example of their skills in making animated characters remarkably emotional and human. Though the past few efforts from this company have been somewhat lackluster there is still a quality they achieve if not completely successfully executed every time. Monsters University continues the brand extension Pixar has implemented with its past works, and while some of the elements are unorganized the result is still a charming family friendly feature.

A young Mike Wazowski is enticed, after a field trip to Monsters Incorporated, to attend Monsters University and become the world’s greatest “scarer”. Though Mike isn’t the scariest monster on the block he commits to Monsters U, a Harry Potter-esque school for monsters. While there Mike (Billy Crystal) meets Sully (John Goodman) and immediate comes to clash with his laid back, privileged mentality. The two are in constant competition in every class, which leads to an altercation in front of Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) that finds them both kicked out of the scaring program. The two hatch a plan to compete in the annual scare games, which would get them re-admitted into the program and prove to the school that they are the scariest monsters of them all.

The usually Pixar sheen is striking in the animation of this film. Bold color designs in all manners of the rainbow compose the many shaped and sized monsters. The buildings alone would require additional viewings in order to spot all the subtleties in the surrounding atmosphere. Reintroducing the characters of Mike and Sulley in yet another summer origin story offers amusing, if overused, opportunities to further present the world of the monsters.

The college setting, reminiscent of Revenge of the Nerds, introduces the familiar best buds as competitive foes. Mike the vigilant student working for his life’s dream and Sulley the coasting image of popularity. The college movie themes are familiar and govern the direction of the narrative throughout. While many of the children that grew up watching Monsters Inc. will find themselves in their first year of college, the decision to base the film in this setting could alienate younger audiences. Also, there is startling lack of female influence throughout; Dean Hardscrabble and the Greek Council President (Aubrey Plaza) being the most notable females have miniscule roles compared to their male counterparts. There are some fun manipulated attributes used within the college film structure. The fraternity/sorority characters are enjoyable; as are the competitive scare games they participate in. Unfortunately the trappings of the origin film set in, allowing the narrative to become familiar and unimaginative. Setting the film primarily in the world of the monsters separates the human qualities associated with parenting and the basis of fear, which were so finely employed in the first film. And while the character attributes of self-respect, courage, and integrity are admirable, they have been portrayed in countless other examples.

Bringing these characters together for another adventure reintroduces them to a new generation of children. Though the result isn’t comparable to Monster’s Inc., it will still have you laughing alongside your children, and any experience where that is achieved is commendable.

Monte’s Rating
3.75 out 5.00

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