Friday, June 21, 2013

Movie Review: "Monsters University"

There has been lots of talk the past few years about Pixar losing their mojo, and if anything, Monsters University proves those naysayers wrong.  Monsters University is vintage Pixar, through and through.  It is a heartfelt film that is highly inventive, laugh-out loud hilarious, and worthy to stand alongside each and every Pixar classic.

The film, a prequel to Monsters, Inc., follows the Billy Crystal-voiced Mike Wazowski from childhood to his early days working for Monsters, Inc.  Of course, the road to that point is not that easy for our favorite one-eyed cretin, as Mike wants nothing more than to be a scarer, and the thing is, he just isn't scary.  As Mike goes to college at Monsters University, the point becomes even more clear as he develops an antagonistic relationship with slacker, yet natural scarer, James P. Sullivan, otherwise known as Sully (voiced by John Goodman).  Now, as we all know, Sully and Mike wind up being best friends by the start of Monsters, Inc., but they weren't always that way, and that's what this film shows.  It shows us how they met and how they became friends, and that's the true value of Monsters University.

Here's what I absolutely love about Pixar and what they do with their films.  Even when they make a sequel, or in this case, a prequel, they don't simply redo what they did the first time out.  They only do a sequel when there is an intriguing story that shows a different facet of the world they created.  Honestly, I've always been a fan of Monsters, Inc., and nearly a decade and a half later, it still stands as one of Pixar's most imaginative worlds they've ever created.  When a world is that imaginative, there are so many different avenues the story can go, and there are only so many that can actually make it into the film.

What Monsters University does so well is how it further expands the world of Monsters, Inc.  There are so many new kinds of monsters we see in this film that we never saw in the first one, all of whom are so original, yet so simple in design, it feels as if they were the monsters we saw under our beds as children.  Once again, Pixar has managed to tap into the childhood experience to craft a masterwork, but what Pixar has always done phenomenally is not just make films that speak to the experience of children, but to life experience in general.  This film does that as well.

What makes Monsters University so funny and different from other Pixar movies, is that while kids will undoubtedly love it, due to the humor involved, so much of the humor's focus on college hijinks makes the film just as funny, if not funnier for adults who went to college and have already had that experience.  While Monsters University does seem to have a greater focus on comedy than its predecessor, don't be fooled into thinking that there isn't a heart to this film, or lessons to be had.

Like all Pixar films, the lessons aren't always simple to grasp and speak to the larger life experience I previously mentioned.  One must applaud Pixar for not making another narrative telling kids you can be whatever you set your mind to.  Mike has set his mind to being a scarer, it does not mean he is good at it, and if you've seen Monsters, Inc., you know he doesn't become one.  As depressing as this may sound, you do not always achieve your dreams, but what it teaches, which is something adults can learn as well, is that if you're open to alternatives, you may wind up in a place better than you ever imagined.

At the end of the day though, Monsters University is simply a great film about friendship that has you laughing throughout its entirety whilst having your heart warmed.

I give Monsters University an A+!

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