Wednesday, June 26, 2013

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY: A Fun but Lightweight Prequel

June 26, 2013

Pixar's latest offering "Monsters University" is a prequel to their 2001 smash hit "Monsters Inc." In this installment, we are brought back in time, when our favorite monster heroes: Mike (the hyper green walking ball with one Cyclops eye, voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sully (the cool blue shaggy giant with the spotted arms, voiced by John Goodman) were just freshmen students at Monsters U, where they were enrolled in the "Scaring" program. We see how they first met, their classes, their professors, their schoolmates including Randy the lizard, their fraternity. As a bonus, we also see Monsters Inc., linking this with the first film.

Mainly, the film will showcase the "Greek Scare Games", an annual scaring competition where the Greek societies of Monsters U battle to be the "most fearsome monsters on campus". This competition will forge as well as challenge Mike and Sully's friendship, as our heroes discover more about each other and about themselves while going through the various events.

Beautiful may not really be the correct word to describe the artwork here, but let's just say that the artists were given their free hand to make the most imaginative and colorful monsters they can come up with. All the scenes in the monster world were bursting with bright colors and wacky designs, it was just lively to behold. The sprawling University campus itself looked like it was inspired by Harvard and its hallowed halls. In contrast, the scenes in the human world were drab and harsh, emphasizing the danger faced by the monsters in our world.

The story of "Monsters University" though is very reminiscent of so many other films chronicling the battle of the "losers" versus the "cool kids" in college. Oozma Kappa, their fraternity of odd geeks and outsiders, reminded me of Lambda Lambda from "Revenge of the Nerds". The two emcees of the Scare Games reminded me of "Pitch Perfect" and its a capella singing competition. Their terrifying dragon-formed Dean Hardscrabble reminded me a lot about Harry Potter's Professor Snape. However, what this film did keep intact is the heart that the original "Monsters Inc." was known for, extolling friendship, cooperation, loyalty and fair play.

Overall, this is another solid animated feature by Pixar. Like other Pixar films, this was funny, with just the right amount of emotion and moral lesson in it. The movie is very entertaining for the whole family, but maybe more for the kids and the kids at heart. However, the story line is too familiar and derivative to be really distinct, much unlike the innovative first film, which had a very original and mature story. You will definitely have a good time while watching the monsters and their shenanigans, but you may not even really remember it too well anymore after a while.

After the lackluster "Cars 2" and the disappointing "Brave," I was a bit concerned that "Monsters University" turned out to be another rather lightweight entry, relative to all the other illustrious Pixar films, that is. With reports of a "Finding Nemo" sequel in the works, I do hope Pixar can soon come up with another ground-breaking ORIGINAL story to bring back them back to their glory days. 6/10.

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