Prequels always draw a low expectation rate for me. I believe while some prequels can be necessary, most of them are merely made to capitalize on a movie’s popularity and do little to expand on an established premise. “Monsters Inc.” is one of my favorite Pixar films (Take note: Favorite Pixar film,NOT one of my favorite animated films) and so I wanted to see a sequel more than I wanted to see a prequel. “Monsters Inc.” did an imaginative interpretation on the creature that hides in the closet and the ones that hide under the bed. It was an endearing interpretation of what we called ‘the boogeyman’ of our childhood fears. A sequel would’ve worked such wonders about what parents can call ‘imaginary friends’....unseen beings that play with children.
But no, instead the guys at Pixar opted to go for a prequel with director Dan Scanlon at its helm with “Monsters University”. The film takes us to this alternate world where ‘scarers’ are rock stars and they all need to go to school to learn its craft. The familiar leads from “Monsters Inc.” make a return, as the film takes us to the beginnings of James “Sully” Sullivan and Mike Wizowski (Billy Crystal and John Goodman). Mike is a hard-working student whose dreams of becoming a ‘top scarer’ is all that he lives for. Sully is more of a natural, and his family name makes him a student with expectations. No one wants Mike around the “School of Scares” while Sully fumbles all opportunities that caused them to be kicked out of the program created by Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). When their rivalry turns to friendship, they turn to a fraternity of misfits for support as the two go forward to their destiny, to work in “Monsters Inc.”…
The screenplay starts off pretty simple and quite frankly it is pretty reliant on established formula. There are college jocks, popular chicks and then, there are the outcasts of college. The first 2 acts of the film feel like a cross between “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Scare Tactics”. The students are there to study the ‘craft of scare’; there is strategizing, theoretical studies, showmanship and then the application. The part where the ‘art of scares’ were developed were a little hazy, but it does have its share of creativity. Once the scare competition come into play, themes of hard work, brotherhood, teamwork and friendship become the film’s central focus. It was interesting to see a school where monsters go to learn their craft. The film exposes such choices in career, there is door making and then, er, there is the canister designing (which seemed to be the major mostly frowned upon). The semi-creative touches as to how the school culture worked was familiar and yet, delightful to see. It was just unfortunate that while the ‘add-ons’ worked well, it wasn’t properly expanded on, and instead, the film goes into the trappings of formula that made it very predictable.
The premise of ‘the zero to hero’ and the ‘outcast turned hero’ has been overused. And this is the film’s weakest point in the screenplay. The relationship between Sully and Mike presented devices that were all too familiar, the potential jock and the class misfit learning the roots of respect and friendship were very familiar devices and so the film became very predictable. Even the fraternity thing was something that had been used many times before. The newer characters while delightful, were all pretty generic, they presented little areas to improve but rather they serve to merely establish what had been known. As a result, the film struggled to generate the laughs when needed, and the pace of the film suffers a little from its missteps.
Perhaps I am over-thinking this family film, which is a Pixar-Disney collaboration and so predictability is to be expected. Despite its flaws, I could easily say that the kids (and the young at heart) will have a ball watching the film. The film still boasts of one of the best animation work in American animation. It was nothing different or ground-breaking, but it certainly was fluid, and attention to detail and texture-mapping were still impeccable. The voice cast was excellent as always, Helen Mirren was fantastic as the strict, smart Dean Hardscrabble. Much as I really did not care for the newer characters, they served their purpose in the screenplay. Peter Sohn was quite effective as “Scott” and the jokes with the tentacles were nicely delivered by Joel Murray. Crystal and Goodman made for the same dynamic chemistry that they had in the original movie, and really much of the film’s flow and processes were dictated by the comedic duo. Mike may be the better written character of the two, but without one or the other, the film would just fail.
I know, “Monsters University’s” predictability was the film’s weakest point. The jokes seemed to lean towards the ‘young adult’ side, but really the jokes were nothing we haven’t seen before. However, there were several things that made the film work, as it was intended for young innocent minds. The lesson of aspiring for your dreams, working hard for your goals and the idea that teamwork can create wonders are valuable lessons that a child should see and a parent would have a ball discussing the film with their young ones. It is a family film with a moral lesson, and something that needs to be told to kids in this day and age. The film may be a little too predictable, but its intentions were well-conceived. The laughs weren’t the highlight, the creative touches may be a little short, but this is an endearing movie with a strong valuable lesson that it gets a Recommendation from me. The value of the film lies with the development of young, aspiring minds (stay in school, maximize your talent and to never stop pursuing your dreams) that makes it worth a watch for the entire family. It may be a little cliché, but hey, young minds need such reminders. [3+ Out of 5 Stars]
Dumb me! Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb me! All summer I put my faith and hope in the big blockbuster films, the Iron Man 3's and Star Treks of the world. And from Man of Steel to Pacific Rim almost without fail these over budgeted, underwritten explosiony action films left me feeling disappointed and underwhelmed. Except for World War Z there is not a single movie I've seen this summer that I can truly say was a great film. Some were better than others (Oblivion and Pacific Rim were … more
Monsters University is an enjoyable film, a riff on the college comedy, borrowing liberally from "Revenge of the Nerds." But the more I think about it, the more problems I detect with its execution. Which is maybe further proof that it's better just to watch movies (especially summer-release movies) and not think about them. To begin with, what age group is this made for? Tonally, it's definitely pitched at kids - it lacks the kind of deeper resonance … more