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Monsters University (2013 film)

An animated film directed by Dan Scanlon produced by Pixar

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Pixar returns to their magical ways

  • Jul 16, 2013
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 both pretty good) but considering their competition was Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness that's not saying much. All the while I put off seeing Monsters U for weeks. "It looks silly" I said, "Pixar has lost its mojo" the idiot side of my brain insisted. Well, that sure teaches me. I will never doubt Pixar again. Even if they make another mediocre film like Brave, they have more than proven themselves still capable of making a damn good film.
Wall E will always be my favorite Pixar film, and Toy Story 2 will always be my second, but fighting for third place for a long time has been Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, the original Toy Story, and Up. That is the kind of company Monsters U is keeping. It does everything right, from delivering plenty incredibly funny moments balanced with the kind of emotionally powerful and heartfelt scenes that have made Pixar a household name. This movie is so funny I chocked on my popcorn. I haven't laughed this hard in a movie since 21 Jump Street. And it wasn't that cheap appeal to the lowest denominator type humor either. There aren't any fart jokes, poop jokes, inside innuendos about sex or drugs. None of that nonsense here. This is good old fashioned honest to God comedy that's drop dead hilariousness and perfectly appropriate for all ages. When you hear kids laughing in the theaters along me, a 24 year old man, you know its comedy gold. It’s because the characters carry the story, and when you have a story driven by strong characters you have a good film. Mike and Sully aren't the only ones delivering laughs, as just about everyone gets in on the action.
Mike and Sully, much like in the original film, star as the main roles but their relationship isn't quite the same. They start the film as heated rivals: Mike is an underdog overachiever who's devoted his entire life to becoming a scarer despite the fact that he's not even remotely scary, while Sully is the son of a famous scarer who's had everything in life handed to him and makes no effort whatsoever in applying himself. Sully has all the natural skill in the world but none of the motivation or drive to apply himself. Mike on the other hand lacks any sort of natural skill. He isn't scary, he's built like a lovable beach ball, he can't roar, but his drive and motivation makes him able to compete with some of the best scarers on campus. It’s very Rudy like in that regard, and though not entirely original the way the story is told is Pixar magic at its finest. And like Rudy it teaches us a very valuable lesson that people of all ages can relate to, that despite ones physical limitations, even of those limitations preclude you from achieving something you've wanted your entire life, with enough hard work, dedication, and the right attitude you can very well succeed at what you wanted, even if it’s not quite in the way you imagined. Who can't relate to that? Who here wanted to be an athlete when they grew up but didn't have the physical capability to compete past High School? : raises hand: As adults we've all experienced this at one time or another. You wanted to be an actor, an athlete, a musician, something, but despite your hard work and dedication it was just never meant to be. So I sympathize with Mike, as I imagine most audience members will.
At the other end of the spectrum we have Sully, who presents a cool and collected face to the world but is living with the weight of high expectations. His father is a world class scarer, a legend, and so Sully has a lot to live up to. His pedigree makes him blind to his own limitations and the need for improvement while also placing a burden upon him he's terrified of not living up to. He's brash, arrogant, a know it all, but as time goes on and failures pile on top of failures he learns that pedigree is not enough, that without actual effort your natural skills won't mean much of anything. Life won't give you a pass because you are the son of so and so or because you can roar really loud. Eventually you’re going to be put to the test, and forced to compete against those of equal or greater natural ability. When that happens it’s the ones that apply themselves the most who will succeed. It was great to see Sully's development in this way from hot shot know it all to humble and hardworking individual. I'm telling you there is more depth, growth, and subtlety to these characters then all the summer action films combined. It’s not even close.
The animation in this film is the best CGI I've ever seen. For the scenes set in our world I would have to remind myself this was an animated movie. There is a scene when Mike and Sully are sitting by a lake with the moon hovering over them that looks like it could have been shot live action. It’s that amazing. If not for the cartoon monsters I might not have been able to tell the difference. This applies to the very well made short, The Blue Umbrella that kicks the movie off. Pixar has always been a pioneer for animation but this is their best, more realistic work yet.
Monsters U is nothing short of a masterpiece. If this were any other studio I'd present this film as their masterpiece, but along with Japanese Studio Ghibli I don't think any studio has such a consistent level of success with almost every film they make. It’s merely one of many dozens of fantastic movies by an amazing studio that deserves to be seen. If you've not seen it yet, make a point to do so. You will not be disappointed.
Replay value: High.

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July 22, 2013
We saw this on Saturday morning, and, while we liked it, we didn't think it had the 'charm' that the first MONSTERS flick had, but, yeah, it wasn't half bad.
July 19, 2013
nice review. You liked this one more than I did. I thought it was inferior to the original, and it may be one of the Pixar titles that I liked less. But Pixar has indeed improved their CGI engine since BRAVE.
More Monsters University (2013 film... reviews
review by . June 23, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Mike and Sully Go to School to Major and Re-Invent the Art of
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 …
review by . June 29, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
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 …
About the reviewer
Jonathan J.D. Lane ()
Ranked #118
I am a member of the US Air Force and presently serve overseas at RAF Mildenhall about three hours north of London. I grew up in Pappilion Nebraska and Crestview Florida, but since joining the Air Force … more
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