Monday, June 24, 2013

Monsters University (Movie Review)

The best thing, worst thing, and main thing about "Monsters University" in about the time it takes to watch the trailer. Can Pixar recapture the magic?



We know Pixar can nail an original, and we’ve even seen them nail sequels, but can they pull off a prequel?
Monsters University is the prequel to Pixar’s Monsters Inc. In this one we follow Mike and Sully’s college years where they meet as rivals attempting to enter the scaring program at the prestigious Monsters U. Along the way they meet new friends, adapt to the challenges of college life and find out that its our weaknesses that often make us the best partners.  Now, Its safe to say Pixar movies always seem to have a high expectation attached to them and as beloved as the original is those expectations seem even higher here. The good news, this movie almost completely lives up to them.  Monsters University is a beautiful, fun, and heartfelt experience that even more fully develops its universe and in classic Pixar fashion may have even brought the occasional tear to my eye.
Overall, there is so much to love here.  Incredible monster design and animation, lots of great laughs, a few high energy action scenes, and perfect voice casting for a brand new group of incredible characters. Of special note is Hellen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble, a genuinely creepy dragon millipede hybrid, and Charlie Day as “Art” a monster who is literally all legs and whose line delivery is so funny it almost steals the show. But really it’s about Sully and Mike and in particularly Mike’s emotional pursuit of a dream. And that’s really the best thing about Monsters University. The heart.  After stumbling around in many critics estimations the last few years it feels like the movie has returned a bit of the story magic of Luxor Jr and pals. I don’t want to give too much away but there is a turn the story takes at towards the end that had me cheering from my seat, not because of the onscreen action, but because the message about purpose it conveyed resonated so deeply. And the way the story zigs right at the moment you thought it had zagged was genuinely exhilarating.
So is there anything I didn’t like about Monsters U?  Not really. I thought about pulling a cheat and saying the worst thing about the movie was the, in my opinion, mostly uninspired short Blue Umbrella that airs before it.  Which is so much like last year’s paper airplane short “Paperman” that I almost did a double take. There are sweet moments and some cool animation but overall it left me unmoved.  BUT, that doesn’t really have anything to do with the movie itself so I suppose I will say the score.  It’s an understandable choice to use college styled music with marching band alma mater style songs, and I even think it worked really well, but I think they missed a chance to use some of the score from the original to make an impact on the viewer.
Ok, so the main thing... It’s good.  really good. Lots of heart, lots of fun, great animation and the Mike and Sully we know and love. learning powerful lessons that will carry them through their eventual careers together at Monsters Inc.  Though I think it falls just short of the original I still give it an A.

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