Mar 27, 2015

[Movies] Monsters University (2013)

Apart from Toy Story and Cars, Monsters, Inc. is the only other Pixar property that has had a direct movie sequel released thus far. Sure, there's talk of future work related to stuff for Finding Nemo and even The Incredibles, but we can't really count them until they actually get released. We're getting there, Pixar. We're getting there.

Monsters University isn't actually a sequel but is instead a prequel, which is the sort of thing that makes a lot of movie-goers groan a bit. I mean seriously, there are very few prequels that have done well and more often than not we regret the results.

And while the Pixar folks didn't quite hit a home run with me with the Cars movies, the Monsters. Inc. franchise has always had more success that most. Even their bad movies are still fairly decent, it may just become more a question of preference and such. And this movie isn't too bad as a prequel despite my earlier complaints of such efforts to expand a franchise. It has some choice moments and certainly makes for some fun times.

Synopsis: Monsters University is a 2013 animated comedy directed by Dan Scanlon with a screenplay by Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon. The movie was nominated for a number of animation-centric awards and won a few like for storyboarding.

The movie begins with a very young Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) going on a field trip to Monsters, Inc. and thus being inspired to one day become one of the scare monsters that harvest children's screams from our world. And the biggest step towards that goal is to ace the scare program at Monsters University. There he is placed in a room with Randy Boggs (Steve Buscemi) and eventually meets James Sullivan (John Goodman), a rather privileged student from a long line of scarers. And Mike is often ridiculed for not being scary enough and thus the two form a bit of a rivalry.

The two have very different approaches in dealing with university life. Mike is studious and diligent and quickly masters all the subject matter by heart. Sulley has a naturally strong and impressive roar that makes him the equivalent of a naturally talented jock type character. Case in point, both try to join a fraternity but of course only the more popular Sulley gets in. But one thing leads to another and both of them get expelled from the program and the only way that they stand a chance to get back into the scare program is to put together their own fraternity and win the Scare Games.

First, the movie is a visual feast. You can see how advances in Pixar's animation techniques have really come a long way since the first Monsters, Inc. movie. You can really appreciate just how well they've gotten at the whole deal with moments like the first Scare Games challenge with the underground race. That was a visually beautiful scene and it has a lot of great comedic action as well.

The movie is pretty darned funny. I can't quite determine if it's funnier than the first one. but it's funny in its own way. More than just relying on Mike and Sulley to carry the humor, the movie introduces an interesting ensemble in the form of the rest of the Oozma Kappa (OK!) fraternity that Mike ends up leading. And I appreciated how that worked out, although definitely a the lion's share of the focus was on Mike more than anyone else.

The overall plot has a pretty strong message about pursuing your dreams and that sort of thing, although it has very weird moments. The fact that Mike and Sulley get expelled kind of shows how a school would be doing wrong by judging people based on perceived talent or something as opposed to them actually learning things. Then they somehow negotiated getting back into the mix of things by winning a bet and the weird stuff they do to win the bet can get a little crazy. But you have to just ride along with the Pixar thought process and appreciate the fun bits and the generally positive message at the core of things.

Monsters University is a clever little movie and certainly a lot of fun. I don't think that we necessarily need to revisit this universe in additional prequels but I would love to see more of the after story and a grown-up boo. Thus the movie gets 3.5 crazy Scare Games challenges out of a possible 5.


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