I’ve made it abundantly clear in the past the Monsters Inc. is one of my least favourite Pixar films, I’ve never been able to put a finger on it but I believe it might stem from my disdain for toddlers and babysitters, which would make Monsters University the perfect sequel (or prequel rather) as it has none of that!
A young Mike Wazowski is finally old enough to register for the elite scare program at Monsters University – a dream he’s had since he was a young grotesque eyeball creature. But all does not go according to plan and he soon finds himself joining forces with Joseph P Sullivan – a rival rather than a friend – in order to redeem himself and make a success of his college experience.
It goes without saying that if you enjoyed the characters of Inc, University is an instant sell. More importantly, this is the best Pixar film since Toy Story 3 and a definite return to form although it’s more an evolutionary step than a step backwards into what made them great in the past.
The Bottom Line
On several occassions I’ve voiced how Pixar has become Disney’s proverbial bitch, doing the sequel thing because they sold out to a bunch of slave masters whose only concern is the payout at the end of the day. I’ve also said that Monsters Inc is a done deal with nothing more to add, and in that regard I will eat my words as Monsters University proves that there was at least a little untapped potential left for Mike and Sulley.
Monsters University, as was the case with Toy Story 3 is a consious effort by Disney to evolve it’s franchises with it’s audience. When toy Story 3 released, I was just about done with tertiary education but for the kids that grew up with Monsters Inc, this prequel is hitting big screens as they’re entering university themselves (assuming they were 6 at the time the original first releasesed). I suppose we can expect a sequel some time from now when Mike and Sulley will be in zimmer frames and adult diapers.
The success of the Monsters franchise has always been its characters – Billy Crystal is a comedy legend and John Goodman is at least a legend of the silver screen and both are perfectly cast in this odd couple duo. The characters of Mike and Sulley are also quite different and the comedy is more situation than the dialogue based quips of the original, that said, it’s no less effective. Where MU is at it’s weakest is it’s heart, the story lacks the heart and warmth of the original and fore the most part seems entirely inconsequential and simply a platform for Crystal and Goodman to work their routine. This of course is not to say that the story isn’t any good, to be honest it’s as good a PG rated college movie as there ever was and it’s packed with the kind of shenanigans you would expect – with the exception of excessive binge drinking, narcotics guzzling, sex romps and all that fun stuff that characterise the genre.
Monsters University is an adequate prequel to a Pixar classic, it hits the right notes where it counts and is an evolution in storyteling that continues their journey of maturity in spite of an ethos that caters towards the mass market. The film is unsurprisingly gorgeous and an obvious improvement on the dated visuals of the original coupled with a 3-D outer layer that was remarkably well designed (no headaches were experienced). It might not be the return to form that Pixar needs but it shows that they’re willing to go back to school and learn how to weave a tale that’s enjoyable for audiences outside of their comfort zone.
The Blue Unbrella Review
As has become tradition, running before all main animated features these days is a short film, which is usually the most original and creative aspect of the film. I won’t harp on about The Blue Umbrella as it really is a clone of the Academy Award winning short film Paperman by Disney Animation Studio. I will admit that the visual style is interesting but when stacked up against Pixars previous shorts, it really fades into the background, offering minimal storytelling and generally an uninspired affair at the best of times.