In the past couple of years, Pixar, as great of an animation studio as they are, have been softballing it in with films like Cars and Brave. Sure they were top quality animated films, but their story were below standards. Which worried a fans when they heard Monsters University was in development. But even though it the studio’s first prequel, the film takes a step forward in the right direction, albeit it’s not a very large step. Still it is a very entertaining film to watch for audiences of all ages and fans of the medium. Hit the jump for more.
Prequels are somewhat a different breed of monster. For one thing, if it is a direct prequel, we already know what is going to happen in the end, and that is something that will always be in the back of your mind. Despite that, Monsters University does a good job of getting its the audience to focus it’s attention on “the developing” friendship of Mike and Sully.
The film basically starts off with Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) stepping foot onto Monsters University. With his hopes set high and his dreams of becoming a scarer becoming that much closer, the cretin is outclassed when a party animal Sully (voiced by John Goodman), who also happens to be the son of a great scarer, lazily walks into class late.
The film isn’t so much as concerned about natural talent vs education as it is about the developing friendship between Mike and Sully. For one thing that premise is shot down when the two’s rivalry causes them to fail a class and force them to study about how scream tanks work. Opportunity for them to become scarers arises when the school’s annual Scare Games are held. As much as the two don’t like each other, they have to work together to get back in, but they have to do it with some of the weakest and most adorable monster fraternity in the entire campus, Oozma Kappa.
Even though you already know in the back of your mind how this is all going to end, there are plenty of sequences in the film that provide more than enough laughs to carry you to the end. The Scare Games are a lot of fun to watch on the big screen. Two particular games, both very different in terms of delivery, will just leave you wondering “how did they do all that” or “where did they get the inspiration to do this?”. One game involves all fraternities to run across a minefield of glowing spores, that when first touched will make you swell up. It’s a fantastic sequence to watch, especially when it goes dark and all you can see are the monsters running and the glow of those spores. I don’t know how this holds up during a 3D showing, but I bet it diminishes the feel of it.
As aforementioned, Monsters University‘s plot centers on the developing friendship between Mike and Sully. The film has them start off as rivals, and throughout the course of the movie, you slowly start to see that they have a lot more in common than they think. The film does pretty much revolve around Mike though, as he is the one who gets a large amount of screen time. Sure, this isn’t the most original or revealing kind of storytelling – not like how the monsters of Monsters Inc. were when it was revealed that they had a bit of humanity in themselves – in fact it feels too much like the go-to premise when there is a movie about a rivalry between two people. But a bulk of those laughs come from the fact that the film does grab from other college rivalry films like Revenge of the Nerds and or misfit college behavior like Animal House.
While Monsters University doesn’t even hold a candle to Monsters Inc. in terms of original storytelling, the film’s vocal performances from Crystal and Goodman are just as fantastic. Riffing and banter off every chance they get, the two’s comedic timeing couldn’t be more perfect. One voice performance everyone will probably be taking about is Helen Mirren, who voices the hard as nails Dead Hardscrabble, a dragon and centipede like hybrid, whose voice is enough to send chills down your spine. Charlie Day and Aubrey Plaza just fit into the roles they voice as Art, an Oozma Kappa fraternity member, and Claire Wheeler, Greek Council president, respectively. Nathan Fillion gets the job done by voicing Johnny Worthington, president of Roar Omega Roar, a rival fraternity.
While there are some technical aspects in the film that make it shine, it does more of the heavy lifting to get you through the movie than the story does. However, despite that, it feels like the film is taking one small step towards the right direction, and hopefully with a couple of original projects coming, we get to see more original storytelling.