logan j. fowler unleashes the beast…
All the way back in 2001, Pixar released Monsters, Inc., a heartwarming entertaining romp featuring the world of monsters from behind the closet doors we were so nervous they were hiding throughout our childhoods. Definitely one of Pixar’s finest moments, the story ended with most of its audience nursing broken hearts, as James P. Sullivan, aka Sulley (John Goodman) said goodbye to Boo, two characters that had grown to appreciate each other through tender loving care.
When a sequel was announced to this animated classic, I did a spit take; how could Disney/Pixar even think to put out a follow-up to this movie when the ending was perfect?! Thankfully, the minds over in the greatest animation studio in the world clearly thought the same, and decided to instead tell us the story of how Sulley and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) came to be BFFs.
Monsters University introduces us to adorable little Mike, who dreams of becoming a scarer. His short size and demeanor has the odds stacked against him though, but he continues to dream big as he enrolls in the scare program at MU. There he meets the infamous Sulley, whose heritage pigeon holes him into greatness without even trying. The two butt heads instantly, but when fate makes them work together to win the campus’ Scare Games, Mike and Sulley will realize what each other is truly capable of.
I was worried about this movie. While Monsters Inc. is not my favorite Pixar film, it does indeed hold a special place in my heart, so when I heard really disappointing things about the prequel from a variety of reviewers, I became wary. However, while Monster’s University doesn’t have the emotional drive that it’s “sequel” does, it’s still is a blast all its own.
The movie is really clever, full of sight gags and inside jokes that aren’t there for the sake of being there; it actually works within the context. The movie kept me chuckling all throughout (mostly, but I’ll get to that in a minute) and really had some strong character moments between the two leads despite the fact that we know how it’s going to end up. That’s the problem with prequels; you kind of already have insight as to what will happen, but Monsters University makes being in the know more fun instead of a chore.
The animation is incredible. There’s actually one scene where Mike is sitting down looking at a pool of water, and his green skin looks real enough to touch. Obviously Pixar and company’s tech has come a long way since 2001, but wow, this movie looks beautiful, with all the color variation seen on campus. And I wish the school grounds were a real place; I’d love to visit buildings that looked like that.
The voice work is stellar too. Besides the aforementioned John Goodman and Billy Crystal who reprise their roles and act like a beat hasn’t been missed, Steve Buscemi returns as the soon to be bad guy Randall, whose appearance filled me with glee. Alfred Molina shows up as a Professor, Helen Mirren owns as the hard headed Dean Hardscrablle, my man crush Nathan Fillion dropped in as the head frat brother of a campus fraternity, but the real stand out here is Charlie Day as Oozma Kappa’s brother Art, a monster who would look straight at home on the Muppet Show. Day embraces his voice over work and steals the show as this crazy purple break dancing freak.
If I had any problems with the movie, it’s that the jokes fly so fast and while they hit most of the time, the movie goes into super serious mode in the third act, which kind of messed up the pacing. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t take me out of the movie or anything, it’s not that jarring, but still, it just was kind of a shift that was tough to take in initially. I’ve heard many critics praising this last act of the film, and they should, as it lays the groundwork for Monster’s Inc. All I’m saying is the transition wasn’t as smooth as I hoped.
That being said, Monsters University was a roaring good time. While it’s not Pixar’s best, I certainly think people are being too hard on it. I found it to be a ton of fun. It doesn’t have a core story that aims for the heartstrings, but sometimes, you just want to have a good time at a movie, and with this one, I did. And that’s all that matters; Monster’s University earns high marks from me, earning the spot of my favorite film of the year thus far.
Note: The short The Blue Umbrella was shown before Monster’s University. Not only was it adorable, but the animation is some of the best I’ve seen. Great stuff all around.