Reviews: Monsters University
I expected mediocrity, but I was really surprised.
Monsters, Inc. was the first movie I saw in the cinema, and I loved everything about it; it's my third favourite Pixar film after The Incredibles and the flawless Toy Story 2 (my favourite film ever). After the disaster that was Cars 2 - the film which instantly signified Pixar's inevitable decline - I expected this film to be merely passable direct-to-DVD material. Boy, was I wrong. Monsters University is absolutely fantastic, in my opinion. Not perfection, but a very strong flick. Despite a simple plot - Mike goes to university, meets Sulley, and they become rivals but then are forced to work together - the personality of this film is irresistible. This is because the writers made sure to make almost every scene a joy to watch. There's so much colour, detail and liveliness in it, so many kooky and cleverly-designed monster characters to meet, and some really interesting twists throughout it. It's a goodie bag chock full of zany delights, bursting with charm and good humour. It also takes the hilarious duo of the original and switches their personalities: Mike becomes the clever, sophisticated character, and Sulley becomes the egocentric, bumbling college bum. And the results are just fantastic. These characters are just as hilarious and fun as they are in the original, and they develop beautifully. There's also a really heartwarming scene where the duo look into the Monsters, Inc. factory and see where they'll work in the future, knowing the road to get there is long but also knowing that it can happen. That scene was divine to me; only Pixar can truly inspire such magnificence in animated film. A truly brilliant scene. Are there flaws? Well, a couple of nitpicks can't hurt. I think that the film is a little bit mean-spirited at times. Some examples: Mike being pushed away by his classmates during his childhood, Sulley stealing a mascot pig, Mike and Sulley's team, "Oozma Kappa" being humiliated during the "Scare Games" and a cruel comment towards Mike from one of the jock characters during a pivotal scene. Also, I do think that the film's pace is a tad slow. It's always funny and full of interesting elements, but at times I felt the film needed to move along a bit faster. Overall though, I think this film is spectacular. In my opinion, it tops A Bug's Life, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Cars 2, Brave, and Toy Story 3.
You want to hate the moral... but you can't
The hardest-working, most studious, most diligent, undaunted outcast of a student ignores the doubters and critics who say he doesn't have what it takes and that he'll never achieve his dream, ignores the party scene and hits the books, proud of the fact that he has to work hard for what he wants instead of having it handed to him like some annoying unjustified egomaniacs, never giving up no matter what they throw at him, and in the end... it doesn't work. How badly he wanted something and how hard he worked for it wasn't enough to get it. It sucks, it's disappointing, it makes you want to call it a Wall Banger and... it's completely realistic. Audiences hate it when Reality Ensues (that's my personal theory why readers hate, for example, Mansfield Park), but the fact is, a lot of people will go through exactly what Mike goes through and learn that the major you had your heart set on just isn't right for you (that's why it's so common for students to change their major in college). Pixar sacrificed the most emotionally satisfying resolution for realism, and you can't fault them for that... well, I can't, anyway. This is no Toy Story 2 or 3, but it's no Cars 2, either. Mike and Sully are no Buzz and Woody, but they're still a great duo. It never made me cry, burst into laughter, or glow in the face of a heartwarming moment like you're used to from Pixar, so it's not their best, but it's no Cars or Brave. It's a great journey with a great climax and mostly great characters (ex. I love the Dean, I hate Oozma Kappa). I hope Mike got Sully's message that he should've learned, not that it's okay just to be okay, but that he is great, even if it's in different ways/at different things that he expected. I hope everyone gets the message, not that the supposedly-mediocre and supposedly-great are all equal, but that you can't always judge who's great by what's on the surface. Greatness is a good thing to strive for, but it doesn't come from heritage or appearance or popularity but from hard work, intelligence, and courage, and what you turn out to be great at may surprise YOU as much as it surprises others. That's the ultimate impression I got from this film, which isn't mind-blowingly awesome like other Pixar films but is still great to watch.
Mike and Sully are Schooled in Pixar's New Film
I'll say this first: Monsters University is no mind-blower like some of Pixar's other films (ie, Up, WALL-E, the Toy Story trilogy), but that does not mean it's not a good movie. Then again I've never seen a Pixar film that I didn't like (at worst, I think of Cars and Cars 2 as fine and fun if somewhat forgettable). Besides, as a film company who has the regular ups and downs, it's not fair to expect Pixar to churn out masterpieces every time they make a movie. Just good movies at least. And that is what MU is, a good light film that keeps the canon from its predecessor Monsters Inc intact if not expand on it and is especially relevant to anyone who is in college or has been to college. Mike and Sully's troubles in school for instance hit uncomfortably close to my own experiences in college as I'm sure they would for many others. I liked that they didn't saddle Randall with some lame Freudian Excuse in this film. From the looks of it, Randall has always been something of a jerk (ie, he wants friends but only if they're cool); he just needed a little push towards his real Start Of Darkness, and that push only shows how petty he really is. I also like that I was wrong about Dean Hardscrabble being the Big Bad. In MI I never saw it coming that Waternoose was the real Big Bad and not Randall, but with Hardscrabble the opposite happened. In fact, I don't think there ever was a real Big Bad here (unless you consider the Roar Omega Roar fraternity, but all they did was bully and antagonize our heroes). Apart from the whole "monster" concept, the story mirrors real life, and I like seeing that in a movie. The message delivered is encouraging while staying realistic and does not offer false hope. Plus, it shows us just how BadAss Mike and Sully really are when you put together their exploits in this film and the first film. The stuff of memoirs! The short presented before the film, "The Blue Umbrella" is wonderful too. The concept is not new, but the story is sweet and simple, and the animation impressive. Say what you will about the feature, but you will never be disappointed by Pixar's shorts. Anyway, you can either see this in theaters or wait for it to come out on DVD. Overall, I give it 4 out of 5.