Last summer before I watched the disappointment that was Brave, I ranked all Pixar movies from my favorite to least. This year, the groundbreaking computer animation department of Disney pulled out another win to end the streak of mediocrity that was Brave and Cars 2. Although I am not one for money-grabbing sequels or prequels, I can’t deny the power of continuing with compelling characters or going back to their origins and finding out what made them the way they are. Monsters University does the latter pretty efficiently.
I went in blind to this movie, so if you want the same luxury the plot skip this next paragraph.
We start out on an elementary school field trip to Monsters Inc. where a little (and dang cute) version of the single-eyed Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) finds his ambitions to become the world’s best scarer. His dream to attend Monsters University ignites and time jumps to Mike’s first day at the school of scaring. Mike has the drive to become the best in his class but not necessarily the build or demeanor to achieve his dream. The first day of class he meets a younger James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) who is a lot more cocky, confident and lazy as he is in the original adventure. He comes from a pedigree of the best scarers so he assumes he can skim by on that alone. The two are put at odds with each other with their idea of how to achieve in the scaring program so when they are forced to work together is when the story really builds. Mike and Sully join a fraternity of misfits who have zero talent in the art of scaring as they compete in a campus wide Scaring Games.
What comes out of this premise is an underdog story with great tension between two likable characters. About a third of the way through I thought I had it figured out on which way Pixar was going to go with the story. If they would have it would have been pretty conventional. Because they didn’t take the easy road of focusing on just the two main characters. Pixar stuck to their strengths and pulled in an ensemble of other enjoyable monsters who have fun chemistry.
The energy that the movie brought into the theater was lively and kinetic; I never felt bored or time wasted. The mix of emotions throughout from tension to dramatic to hilarious keeps interested. There weren’t many laugh out loud moments, mostly small chuckles which only tells me that they didn’t try to overdo the cute factor that plagues many “children’s” movies.
What comes out of the wash is an origin of a buddy relationship that doesn’t tell anything too deep but helps us understand that friends aren’t supposed to be the same but complimentary of each other to have a good relationship. As far as Pixar movies, it runs in the middle to high level of the packs. It doesn’t draw any tears like Toy Story 2 but doesn’t leave you feel unsatisfied like Brave.
Rating: take your family to an affordable matinee.
Summer’s Best of List (So far)
1) Star Trek
2) Iron Man 3
3) Man of Steel
4) Monsters University
5) Now You See Me (Review coming next week)
6) The Great Gatsby
7) World War Z