Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Hey, I liked 'Monster Inc.', but the fact remains that it was my least favorite Pixar film.  At least before 'Brave' got released.  Yeah, I know 'Brave' has the Academy Award… that actually belongs to 'Wreck-It Ralph'… but we're not going to get into all that.  But as I mentioned before, if you put things on a list, something has to be at the bottom of it, even if everything on that list is good, and that's where 'Monsters Inc.' sat.  Before 'Brave' got released.  Did I say that already?  I guess what I'm saying is I don't really see the need for a 'Monsters Inc' prequel.  Oh wait… this is Disney we're talking about.  My apologies.  Of course I see the need.  These are essentially the same people that, while we were at Disney on Ice, who charged me eighteen dollars for at for a Mickey Mouse Sno-Cone.  So while I did enjoy 'Monsters University', even more than 'Monsters Inc', if you gotta make sequel to your animated films, Disney, can we get some 'Incredibles' action?   Please?

Truth be told, it's been so long since I've seen 'Monsters Inc' that I only barely remember it, but it takes us back to the college years of One Eyed Mike (Billy Crystal) and the big furry Sully (John Goodman) before they were best buds.  As it turns out, they actually hated each other with Mike being a snide know-it-all and Sully being a pompous windbag.

You see, all Mike's ever wanted to do was to get into the Monster's University Scare School and become the greatest scarer ever.  If it's in a book, Mike knows it all.  Cold.  Thing is Mike isn't all that scary.  For Sully on the other hand, a Scare School Legacy, books are like cooties to him and he avoids books and study like the plague.  But he can be scary.  But what you may not know is that there are levels of scary, I mean that one mighty roar might not be enough to scare the kid and fill up the scare energy cans.  It's complicated. 
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The problems for this duo begins when the pair upset the Dean of the scare school, Ms Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), and they both get drummed out.  But fear not because we have the fear games which will require both Mike and Sully to align themselves with some loser fraternity in hopes of winning these games and hopefully getting back in the good graces of Dean Hardscrabble who may allow them back into the Scare School.

You know the routine.  They hate each other, they don't work together, they realize they need to work together, a tenuous friendship is forged, then an authentic friendship is formed as castaways, third wheels, the forgotten, the pompous and the know-it-alls unite for Scare Game Glory!  But wait!  There's more!  And it's that 'more' that lifts 'Monster University' up.  Not quite up to the levels of the Pixar excellence that most of us are used to, but better than the well worn road it seemed to be heading towards.

So I'm watching 'Monsters University' and not too far into the movie it became kind of clear to me that this was turning into an animated version of 'Revenge of the Nerds' minus the gratuitous nudity.  Admittedly that movie came out thirty years ago so the target audience for 'Monsters University' will have no knowledge of that film, and hopefully these kids won't ever have knowledge of that film until they get to college age, but I'm thinking Team Lassiter might've taken the easy way out with this one, and that's not something we expect from a Pixar film.  Technically and not surprisingly, the film is superb.  In a movie that at times has hundreds of animated characters on screen at a time, I didn't see any characters who looked even close to the same, unless they were actually supposed to, so as per usual the overworked, under paid artists at Pixar were on their A+ games in delivering across beautiful images through the silver screen.  Same goes for the voice acting as John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi… et. al… were all stellar in the vocal presentations of their respective characters.  But of course at this point, in relation to Pixar / Disney films, great voice acting and flawless animation is like telling us the sky is blue.  We take it for granted.  We shouldn't as excellence should never be taken for granted, but we do.

Here's the thing though.  Before we dismiss 'Monsters University' as a slightly derivative tale of movies gone by… 'Revenge of the Nerds', a little bit of 'Animal House', a touch of 'Carrie'… there is an unusual amount of depth and an examination of larger emotional concepts in this otherwise bright and sunny family film.  Here we have to deal with the irreparable consequences of cheating, crushed dreams, unfulfilled potential, and the alternatives you have to examine when faced with these life affirming realities.  These are some heady concepts for a children's film.

Again, 'Monsters University' is a fine film, it's just that the people who have made this movie have set the bar so freaking high, and we do have to admit that in relation to some of the films that have come before it, this one does lack the sense of wonder and amazement one expects when watching a Pixar movie.  Of course you should see it if the opportunity presents itself, but just keep your expectations in check, if that's even possible when it comes to a film from these guys.
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