Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Monsters University [2013]

MPAA (G)  CNS/USCCB (A-I)  RE.com (4 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
RE.com (M. Zoller-Seitz) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review

IMHO, one's opinion of Monsters University [2013] (directed and screenplay/story cowritten by Dan Scanlon along with Robert L. Baird and Daniel Gerson), a "prequel" to Monsters Inc [2001] is going to depend both on (1) how much one loved the first movie and (2) how much one is willing to allow this movie to be different from the first

I write this because while many have lamented the PIXAR's "inability" to "capture the magic" of its much beloved previous film, I understand this second film, its relationship to the first and even PIXAR's current competence / legacy differently: To understand/appreciate this film, IMHO, one simply has to accept that it is a different film from the first.  Both as a prequel to the first and because of the nature of the first film (so focused on the absolutely adorable little human toddler who accidently enters into the Monsters' world) I believe that it simply had to be different from the first

Consequently, I actually applaud PIXAR's courage in making this second film in the manner that it did and I further applaud its courage in delivering the message that it did.  At it's best PIXAR has been both innovative and courageous inserting themes about loss (Up [2009]), loneliness (WALL-E [2008]) and even the facing of death (Toy Story 3 [2010]) in ostensibly child-oriented films that have left adult viewers both simply in awe and often wiping away tears.  There's a rather blunt/courageous message to Monsters University [2013] that becomes evident by the end that IMHO both needed to be said (even if in a "cartoon fashion" ;-) and makes THIS film worthy to be in the league of the other surprising/challenging PIXAR films listed above. 

But enough of defending the worthiness of Monsters University [2013] to carry the PIXAR imprimatur, what's the film about? ;-)  Well it gives the story of how amiable one-eyed goblin Mike (voiced again by Billy Crystal) and similarly amiable blue-furry Big Foot like monster Sullivan, Sully for short (voiced again by John Goodman) first became friends: they met in college, at ... Monsters U ;-). 

Both had their issues/stories when first met, freshman year:  Mike had always dreamed of going there and was apparently a first generation college student from his family.  Sully, on the other hand, was a "legacy" coming from a long line almost legendary "scarers."  Hence Mike arrived, wide-eyed and enthusiastic, eager to prove himself, while Sully arrived lazy and feeling entitled.  Both were set straight soon enough by the tough Dean Hardscrabble (voiced by Helen Mirren).  Try as he might, Mike simply did not impress her as someone capable of being a "successful scarer," and Sully quickly put himself on academic probation by simply not doing the work.

In peril of being thrown out of Monsters U., the two had a chance to redeem themselves: winning the annual scaring competition organized by Monsters U's fraternity council.  HOWEVER, since both were deemed "losers" by most of the frats -- Mike for being "geeky" and Sully for not applying himself, the two end up in the "loser frat" (the Omelunga Kappas ... that is "the OKays" ;-).  Such "losers" were the members of this frat, that their frat house was actually the house of one of one of its most geety frat members, his mom being the "house mom" ;-).  The cool frat were the ROAR M ROARS and they were more or less expecting to win (and they even offered Sully a chance to join their frat if only after got his act together...).  Much often very funny ensues ...

The surprise is ... the ending.  As I write above, this is what makes the film worthy of PIXAR's label.  And it ought to give both "Dean Hardscrabble" as well a lot of actual university deans as well as parents and their children preparing to go to college in the years to come much to think about.  To say more here, would say too much... ;-)

In any case, folks at PIXAR, once again, good and surprising job!

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