Pixar’s last two films, Cars 2 and Brave, don’t match the high standards set by the company. They didn’t have the heart, the laughs, and overall great storytelling of other Pixar films like Toy Story, Up, and The Incredibles. After re-watching Monsters, Inc. today, the film has all of the above (heart, laughs, and storytelling) although its screenplay is a little loose (way too many conveniences in that movie that kids won’t notice). Still, it’s a great film and one of the better animated films of the early 2000’s decade. Nobody in the world asked for a prequel to that film but I think Pixar wanted to do the “Cars 2 cheat” as I call it (they wanted to do a spy film but reused a franchise instead of making a new one) except instead of a spy theme, it’s a college theme. Monsters University is its name and its solid trailers don’t give you the right impression of the movie. Yes, Monsters University is much BETTER than its trailers made it look and its easily one of the best films I’ve seen all year and the best animated film I’ve seen since Toy Story 3. Pixar, welcome back.
After an elementary school field trip to Monsters Inc., Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) has always dreamed of becoming a scarer. He attends Monsters University when he’s older and is majoring in scaring. He eventually meets up with Sulley (John Goodman) and they and a few other misfits enter the “Scare Games” in order to achieve a higher scaring status in the school.
I don’t want to talk about the plot of the movie too much because what this movie excels at is deviating from the cliché formula this movie could’ve easily followed. That predictable sounding formula is anything but with enough surprises that keep the movie interesting all the way to the end. The college setting was a nice touch and Pixar was able to have fun with all the little quirks of college (at least according to other movies as I’m only 17 and still in High School).
As a prequel to Monsters, Inc. the movie does a solid job of showing us what Mike and Sulley were like before they met and it’s interesting, as a fan of the first film, to watch their relationship grow. There are tons of little throwbacks to the first film that were nice to see so I recommend giving Monsters, Inc. a rewatch before seeing the new film.
The returning characters (which is mainly Mike and Sulley and a couple of other surprises) all got their voice actors back. Billy Crystal and John Goodman are still great together and you can really feel their chemistry not just through the screenplay but in their voice acting. Newcomers like Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley (who also played Flick in A Bug’s Life), Charlie Day and more all do a great job and give their characters the character they deserve.
But what Monsters University nails is its screenplay. While the movie doesn’t have the heart that other Pixar films have (for example, Boo in the first Monsters, Inc.) Monsters University has very funny dialogue. I cracked up at quite a few moments in the movie and the jokes were actually smartly written instead of stupid kiddy crap. Monsters University thankfully brings back the Pixar tradition of their movies being for both kids and adults.
The animation in the film is also spectacular. It’s not as jaw dropping as Brave (mainly since Brave was based on actual environments while Monsters University is more of a “cartoon”) but the character models and surroundings all looked flawless. The 3D is my main problem with the film. It’s practically nonexistent and has literally no decent moments. Go see it in 2D, you’ll enjoy the movie more.
Finally, Randy Newman’s (who returned from Monsters, Inc.) score is fantastic. He had a great score in Monsters, Inc. and he thankfully continues that tradition here. It’s not a soundtrack I’m going to run out and buy, but it’s a great score that deserves some recognition.
Before this review is wrapped up, I have to mention Pixar’s short in front of the film titled “The Blue Umbrella.” While it’s not Pixar’s best, it’s certainly very well made. The animation blows Brave out of the water in terms of realism but its story isn’t so strong. Still a great short but nothing too memorable.
Monsters University really surprised me. The trailers were great and all but I didn’t expect to like the movie this much. It’s not perfect but its funny and solid screenplay makes Monsters University one of the best films I’ve seen all year.
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