Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Movie Review: Monsters University

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Fun, laughs, characters.
Cons: It's not the original
The Bottom Line:
A Pixar prequel
Entertaining on its own
But not the first one

Monsters University - Now Enrolling for Fun

I have two favorite Pixar movies - Up and Monsters Inc.  So when they announced the Monsters University prequel, I greeted it with mixed emotions.  Yes, I was interested in revisiting Mike and Sulley, but I was afraid it would pale next to the original.  And it's not the original, but it is fun in its own way.

As a kid, Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) set his sights on becoming a scarier.  And the best university to learn to do that?  Monsters University, of course.  So he is thrilled as a freshman when he finally arrives on campus.  Also a freshman is James Sullivan (John Goodman) of THE Sullivans.  His family is scaring legend, and he is automatically big man on campus.  That hardly bothers Mike since he is working hard to learn all he can about scaring, must to Sulley's annoyance.  But when both of their positions at the college are threatened, will they be able to work together to stay at Monsters U?

Now, I will start by saying if you haven't seen the original, it should be no problem jumping in here.  Outside a few cool cameos for fans of the original, most of this movie features new characters and situations.  Think of the stuff you'd miss more as in jokes.  It won't hurt your enjoyment to not get them, but there are a few moments you are missing.

The original did a good job of creating this wonderful world where Monsters are normal, and they had these great gags that were blink and you miss them type of things.  While there are a few of those here, they aren't quite as plentiful.  Then again, they'd already done so much in the first one, it's hard to picture how they could match or top those gags.

And, frankly, that's the main problem with this film.  There are jokes.  The jokes are funny.  But they aren't as funny or as plentiful as the original.  Then again, is going to the same well ever as good the second time?

My other complaint?  The heart of the first movie for me is Boo, the little girl that Mike and Sulley spend that movie trying to get home.  She's not here, and there really is no substitute.  I was expecting that going in to the film and yet I still missed her.

So, now that I've talked about what the movie doesn't have, let's discuss what it does.  The story is good.  Predictable, yes, but still enjoyable.  I got caught up in the events and enjoyed watching them unfold.  Also predictable was the moral about working together, but they also organically work in some thoughts about working to your strengths and, in the last few moments, the rewards of hard work.  All in all, not a bad bunch of messages without once preaching at us.

I still like Mike and Sulley, and enjoy watching them build their friendship.  Part way through the movie, we meet some oddball characters who are very funny and just plain fun.  They get some of the best laughs in the film.

And make no mistake about it.  While this isn't as creative and funny as the original, it is still funny.  It might be a tad scary for kids in some spots, but I don't think it's much worse than the original.

The voice talent is all top notch.  In addition to the returning duo, we get the likes of Helen Mirren, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Alfred Molina, and Nathan Fillion.  They all shine, and it's easy to forget about the actors behind the voices and get lost in the characters and world they are creating.

The animation continues to shine as well.  While not quite the realistic world they created for last year's Brave, it's still quite good.

Speaking of Brave, while I did enjoy that movie, this one was certainly better.

Really, Monsters University had too high a bar to reach in my eyes.  I knew that going in, and set out to enjoy it for what it is.  While it's not the original, it's certainly entertaining and worth watching.  Set your expectations accordingly, and you'll find you enjoy it.

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