Another Pixar movie! YAY! I, like many, have enjoyed most of Pixar’s offerings. My favorites being WALL*E and UP. The last couple of movies have been a little underwhelming. I liked CARS 2 and BRAVE, but they didn’t seems as special as what Pixar has put out before. I suppose it’s hard to hit a home run every time, and maybe it’s unfair to expect that too. Anyway, their latest is a prequel to the 2001 hit, MONSTER’S INC. I think that movie is pretty darn good fun. It was definitely a stepping stone for what Pixar was to become. But I’ll be honest, re-visiting these characters didn’t sound like the most inspiring thing these guys could come up with. I wasn’t dreading it, but it also wasn’t on my “must-see” list.
Before Mike and Sully were a team gathering screams from children at Monster’s Inc, they met at college. Monsters University. And they didn’t hit it off right away. This is their origin story. We find out that Mike has always wanted to be a top scarer ever since he was a boy. It’s his dream. When he gets to college however, he discovers that the world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. The top monsters (jocks) tease him, including Sully. But when he’s humiliated in class one day, Sully is dropped from his fraternity and ends up joining the nerd fraternity, which Sully is in. Sully and Mike are expelled by the evil dean of the school when they fail a course. They ask for one more chance. If they win the college games (ala REVENGE OF THE NERDS) they can continue with their schooling. Along the way, Sully and Mike learn the meaning of friendship and teamwork.
The story is shockingly basic considering it’s a Pixar film. It doesn’t offer much in terms of imagination. But is it entertaining? Well, at first, it wasn’t looking that way. The first 20 minutes or so features a bunch of loud, obnoxious characters running around and screaming. Was this a Nickelodeon movie or what? But as the film goes on, I did find myself rooting for the underdogs. It’s hard not to. There’s also something welcoming nostalgic re-visiting beloved characters. By the end of the movie, I was with it. But it didn’t grab me right away like so many other Pixar films did before.
The whole movie has the feel of a sort of ANIMAL HOUSE and (especially) REVENGE OF THE NERDS-vibe. I’m a sucker for those, which is why I ended up getting on board. Once they start the games is when the movie really took off for me. I got a kick out of all the different events all the teams had to go through. The finale is a lot of fun, which has every member of the team going though the scare simulator, seeing who can get the loudest screams. You know how it’s going to turn out (since Mike is not a scarer), but man, I was really rooting for the little one-eyed monster.
The voice-cast is solid as usual. Billy Crystal and John Goodman have definitely found a comfortable groove as Mike and Sully, as they slide into their roles with ease. Steve Buscemi also returns as Randall and you get to see how he becomes the jerk he is in MONSTERS INC. I also liked the character of the dean, portrayed by Helen Mirren, who is some sort of winged creature. There’s other amusing characters throughout, my favorite being this sort of sock monster (which looked like something out of the Jim Henson workshop).
The script isn’t all that fresh, but it has a likable familiarity to it. In all honesty, even though I saw it less than a week ago, I don’t remember too much about it. I remember I smiled through most of it, and had a pleasant time. But it’s just not the most memorable movie. That’s just how slight it is. I probably won’t be seeking it out anytime soon. but it was enjoyable while I was watching it. If this was made by any other studio, I would say that is was a pretty good success, but since it’s Pixar, it feels a bit underwhelming.
It may sound as if I hated it, but that’s not the case. It’s a fine kids movie. In fact, I think most kids will really enjoy it. It’s just nothing more than a solid kids movie. And maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. I am going to recommend it. If you just want to get away from all of life’s problems, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is a pleasant, mild, temporary distraction. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated G but could be scary for very small children.
– Running time: 1hr 43min.
(The short, THE BLUE UMBRELLA, before the feature is outstanding and is worth the price of admission alone!)