This could be a one word review, and no doubt there are some of you who are praying that I would take that route and spare you the rest. To accommodate that group, people who I am sure would love to read the entire review but simply don't have the time because their house is on fire and they are being told to evacuate the premises, the following is all you really need to know about Monsters University:
That's it. That's all you really need to know. But just in case your house isn't on fire, read on.
Monsters University is the latest gem from Pixar Studios. This is the story of how the main characters from Monsters, Inc., little one-eyed green Mike and big, blue and hairy Sulley first met as freshman at prestigious Monster University. MU has one of the best known and highly respected Scare programs. Little Mike, who is arguably not very scary, has spent his life preparing for his dream of entering the MU's Scare program and is bound and determined to succeed, whatever the cost. Sulley, from a family of famous and highly successful scarers, is cocky and arrogant and thinks that graduation will be just a matter of showing up. The hard-working Mike resents Sulley's silver spoon attitude, and Sulley can't resist picking on the little guy.
When Mike's and Sulley's squabbles spin out of control and end up stepping on the toes of the Dean Hardscrabble, a legendary scarer, they both get kicked out MU's scare program. However, Mike comes up with a plan to get readmitted -- he bets Dean Hardscrabble that he can win the Greek Week Scare Games. If he wins, he gets readmitted; if he loses, he leaves MU forever. The Scare Games are a team sport, and Mike has to have a team. He enlists the aid of a geeky joke of a fraternity called Oozma Kappa, but are still one member short of a team. Mike and Sulley realize that Mike's plan is the only shot either has of getting back into the program and reluctantly agree to join forces. This band of misfits defies the odds and progress through the games despite themselves. Do they win? Is there a happy ending?
Pixar just doesn't make bad movies. For one thing, they are the technological genius behind the CGI phenomenon that has revolutionized filmmaking in the past twenty years. Originally part of Lucasfilms, what is now Pixar developed RenderMan, a thingie ... don't ask me to explain it 'cause I can't ... that appears to be at the heart of almost everything we see on the screen nowadays. Go here if you want some idea of what it is, and don't forget to watch the short that is on that web page. As a result, every Pixar film is visually stunning.
More than that, the people of Pixar seem to really care about writing good stories. This isn't about just making cartoons for them. It's about providing great stories with engaging, well thought out characters. Not just characters for kids either. I absolutely loved the early part of this movie as Mike makes his way to MU for his first week of school. This was the best depiction of orientation week I've ever seen, far better that all those other coming-of-age college movie about stupid kids getting drunk.
Because this is a story based on characters from a previous movie, there is a little bit of the edge taken off the creativity. A couple of years ago, Rango beat out Kung Fu Panda 2 for Best Animated Film, even though Panda was a spectacularly beautiful film with a strong story. Rango, I believe, edged out the other film because it had all new characters, an all new world, whereas Panda used existing characters. Rango was, by definition, more creative. Monsters University does indeed have familiar faces, but there is nothing stale about this story.
A great story and spectacular animation from the Pixar studios give us once again top notch entertainment that delivers great value for the price of admission.
Pixar -- 'nuff said.
I have NEVER been in a movie theater that was as packed as our showing of Monsters University. Indeed, we got there in good time for the movie, but in order to find three seats together (we dragged the elder grand-daughter along with us) we had to sit down front in the neck-craning seats.
And yet, in spite of the lousy seats, I loved the film. Some critics felt that there was no need for the "prequel" to Monsters, Inc., and maybe they didn't feel that need, but once I heard that Mike and Sulley were going to make a re-appearance in an animated film, I certainly felt a need to go and visit with them again, and from the box office reports, a lot of other people did, too.
As Bernie has said, the animation was right at the top of Pixar's game, and the story flowed well. There was enough humor for adults as well as for kids, and being surrounded by a bazillion children, it was a thrill to hear so much laughter throughout the film.
We'll definitely own this one on DVD ... and re-buy Monsters, Inc., which the elder grand-daughter, years ago, watched and re-watched on DVD until the disc wore out.
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