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Monsters University (A Movie Review)

Updated: Sep 8, 2020

Monsters University


Featuring the voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi, Peter Sohn, Charlie Day, Alfred Molina, Aubrey Plaza, Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Nathan Fillion, Tyler Labine, John Krasinski, Bonnie Hunt, Bill Hader, Bobby Moynihan, Julia Sweeney, Beth Behrs, Bob Peterson and John Ratzenberger.

Screenplay by Robert L Baird, Daniel Gerson and Dan Scanlon.

Directed by Dan Scanlon.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures. 104 minutes. Rated G.

Pixar has been in the middle of a minor slump, as far as making films go. For the company's first decade or so, they made hardly a wrong move. Instead, they piled up classic after classic, from Toy Story to Finding Nemo to Cars to even quirkier fare like Ratatouille and Wall-E.

However, the studio seems to have peaked in 2009-2010 with the near perfect double shot of Up and Toy Story 3. Sadly, pretty much every film they have released since has been a bit of a disappointment – only one film was actively bad (Cars 2) but the others, like Brave and Planes, have been pretty minor pleasures.

Add to that listing Monsters University. It's certainly not a bad film. It's even marginally entertaining. But in the past, Pixar movies were so much more than that.

Monsters University is a continuation of the studio's sudden fascination with the sequel. Well, Monsters University is actually a prequel. But between Toy Story in 1994 and Up in 2009, Pixar released exactly one sequel (Toy Story 2). Since Up came out, there have been three (Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and Monsters University.) That is giving them the benefit of the doubt that Planes is not a Cars sequel, even though it took place in the Cars universe. Coming soon, Finding Dory, as well as whispers about a possible Incredibles sequel and maybe even Toy Story 4.

The truth of the matter is that Monsters Inc. was no masterpiece in itself, making the idea of expanding its universe all the more confounding. In fact, truth to be told, the most purely entertaining Monsters Inc. spin off is the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor show at Disney World.

Still, Monsters Inc. was spun off of a quite wonderfully fanciful idea. Those monsters that show up in small kid's bedrooms at night... what if they were real? Not only real, but normal 9 to 5 workers at a scare factory, mining children's screams for power?

It's a clever, easy to relate to premise. And if the original film sort of spun out of control eventually (that scene with all the doors felt like a film that was running out of ideas), the movie was mostly fun.

Did you ever really wonder how these monsters got into the biz? I didn't think so. But Pixar is gonna tell you anyway.

Monsters University takes our two heroes back to scaring college: Mike Wazowski, the walking green eyeball with the comic timing of a vaudeville act (voiced by Billy Crystal) and James "Sully" Sullivan, the scaring legacy and BMOC (voiced by John Goodman).

One problem right off the bat is that even in mere voiceovers, the 60-something Crystal and Goodman sound awfully old to be in college. But, okay, we'll bite.

Both of them dream of someday being "scarers" at Monsters Inc. Sully has the look and the talent, but not the work ethic or the study sense. Wazowski knows all there is about scaring, but it doesn't change the fact that he's a goofy looking green eyeball, not exactly scary.

The rest that follows is a G-rated college film, which sort of sounds like a contradiction in terms. No binge drinking or panty raids in Monsters U, but they still have the Greek games, rush week and peer pressure. All with a vaguely supernatural feel.

It's somewhat funny, and as normal with Pixar, the animation is quite incredible. Perhaps it's a tiny bit trivial, but it is mostly fun. If you liked Monsters Inc., chances are good that the new film will tickle you. If you found the first one nice enough but kind of unnecessary (as I did), Monsters University just magnifies the faults of the first one.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2013 All rights reserved. Posted: October 25, 2013.

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