Movie Review: Monsters University

MU2FEATURING THE VOICES OF: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi, Nathan Fillion, John Krasinski, Alfred Molina,  Aubrey Plaza, Charlie Day, Bonnie Hunt, Dave Foley, Frank Oz, Sean Hayes, Frank Welker,Tyler Labine, Bobby Moynihan, Julia Sweeney.

WRITTEN BY: Robert L. Baird

DIRECTED BY: Dan Scanlon

 

There was something so unique and inventive about the first Monsters Inc movie. We were introduced to a group of characters that normally kids would find scary, only to find them funny, charming, and really protective of a little girl named Boo. Sadly, Boo didn’t make the cut for the prequel, as she probably isn’t even born yet. But also not making the cut is the extra bit of magic that we first felt when visiting this world, not that Pixar doesn’t try really really hard to make us feel the same way again.

 

Mike (Billy Crystal) is a little boy with big dreams of one day being a scarer. He’s basically the runt of his class, so he has to try really hard all throughout school, so that when he graduates he can attend Monsters University. He gets accepted, and has his opportunity to be a scarer. Unfortunately, no one takes him seriously. But, like anyone with a disadvantage in life, he works extra hard, and studies his butt off to become the most book-smart scarer in his class. Sully (John Goodman) is a “legacy” scarer, riding off the fact that the generations before him are all well known scarers at the top of the game. He’s the big man on campus, and he and Mike don’t get along. Everything comes easily to Sully, and nothing is ever given to Mike. While not really relevant to the plot, it is interesting to see that Mike’s roommate was Randy (Steve Buscemi), and the two got along quite well, before Randy becomes a psychopath in Monsters Inc.

Anyway, a fight between Mike and Sully gets them kicked out of the scarer program by the dean (Helen Mirren), and the only way for them to get back in is to win the “Scare Games”— like the Hunger Games, but for Disney characters. They need a fraternity to participate, so they pick the unlikely “loser” fraternity Ooze Kappa team. Socially rejected, the OK’s really just want to be scarers, and with the smarts of Mike, and the natural talent of Sully, they might just get their day in the spotlight. Of course, that would mean that Mike and Sully would need to learn to work together, which at the beginning of their relationship seems impossible. Both have massive egos to get past, and they each think the other doesn’t stand a chance.

There are a few good gags throughout the film, but not at the pace of the first film. To be fair to Pixar though, this is way better than Cars 2, and feels less like a “cash in” than someone actually had a good story to tell. While I’m sure they’ll get some decent sales in merchandise from this film, I feel less like a whore for liking it. There is a good story here. And Helen Mirren was the perfect casting choice for the Dean. So what’s the problem?

The film just isn’t as funny as you want it to be. It’s a good story, but you find yourself not laughing at what are obvious  attempts to get you to chuckle. I even saw it with an audience of children, and they only gave a few light laughs here and there. Somehow, the funniest Pixar movie produced a largely laughless (but still somehow enjoyable) sequel. If you enjoyed Monsters Inc, you’ll still like seeing how Mike and Sully came to be, and enjoy seeing Pixar take on the “college comedy” genre. However, even though this is a step in the right direction from Cars 2, it still makes you miss the days of Wall-E, Up, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and the Toy Story movies. With Finding Dory around the corner, you begin to wonder if Pixar has run out of their truly great ideas, or if the great storytellers have just moved on. This is Dan Scanlon’s first feature attempt with Pixar, and I wonder if Pete Doctor or Andrew Stanton had been behind this film, would we have finally felt the magic of the original?

FINAL GRADE: B+

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