Friday, June 21, 2013

The Old College Try: Disney-Pixar's “Monsters University”

Disney-Pixar’s Fourteenth Animated Feature – 2013
Movie Review by Jack Silbert. 
Let me get a little continuity issue out of the way. Back in 2001’s Monsters, Inc., green one-eyed Mike Wazowski tells blue, furry James P. Sullivan, “You’ve been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade, pal.” Now, in the all-new Monsters University, we’re told that Mike and Sulley met in college. It’s revisionist history!

I doubt that will bother the kids too much, as this is another highly entertaining offering from the Pixar team. While it may lack the sheer inventiveness of the original film, Monsters University makes up for it with manic energy, new silly characters, and stunning animation. Additional good news: I feel this one is a little more palatable for the adults in the audience.

Billy Crystal voices Mike Wazowski
(left) and John Goodman is back as
the voice of "Sulley" Sullivan.
Monsters, Inc. had a pretty genius conceit: That power for the monsters’ world was provided by the screams of children. Writing that out, it sounds pretty macabre, but of course Pixar pulled it off with a cutesiness and good humor that charmed even the youngest kids. If one was a curmudgeonly film critic, you might even say it was a wee bit on the babyish side. For Monsters University, while we’re still solidly in a G-rated world, things feel just slightly more grown-up.

And why not? The original target audience of Monsters, Inc. is off at college themselves these days. (Or rather, on summer break, when they can take their young cousins to the multiplex to revisit old pals Mike and Sulley.) In this prequel, our fearsome friends end up in the “School of Scaring” at that proud institution, Monsters University. (I’d gripe about the Monsters, Inc. corporate branding at the school, but I guess we’re pretty close to that in real life, aren’t we?) Anyone who has been to college will feel a real tug of familiarity as (ahem) wide-eyed Mike shows up for orientation: the gorgeous campus, activities everywhere, moving into a dorm, etc. Am pretty sure I saw some beasts playing hacky sack on the quad.

Steve Buscemi is the voice of Randy
(at left) in a rival frat, of course.
In fact, the plot is not too far off from every college comedy you’ve ever seen, from Animal House to Revenge of the Nerds to the collected works of young John Cusack. Mike and Sulley get kicked out of the scaring program, and have to win the big frat contest to restore their honor. You know, whatever. We get a bunch of zany competitions (including a visually hilarious race through prickly obstacles that cause you to puff up). Joining Billy Crystal and John Goodman (and Steve Buscemi back in nerdy-sidekick mode as a pre-evil Randy) is some fun new voice talent: Helen Mirren, Sean Hayes, Bobby Moynihan, Charlie “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” Day, and more.

There are a lot of goofy laughs and positive messages. (You can achieve whatever you set your mind to: check. It’s OK to be different: check. Friends are important: check, check, check.) Things even get a little bit dark and scary. Not too scary, mind you—it’s your old fun-loving buddies Mike and Sulley after all.

All art ©Disney-Pixar. Not for reuse.

1 comment:

  1. Love this movie so much!! Thanks for a great review!