Monsters University (G)

9 Stars

Due to the lack of press, I bet most think this prequel panned.

Well, it made $268.5 million at the box office.

And deservedly so, if you ask me. Monsters University is very good!

They rereleased Monsters Inc. in theaters over the summer, so I saw it for the second time since its original release. I mentioned afterward that it isn’t nearly as funny as I’d remembered.

My older sister and younger cousins all agreed; the humor’s not up to snuff in Monsters, Inc.

Three months later I watched the prequel with my sister and brother-in-law. We all agree this is quite a bit funnier.

Perhaps Monsters U. isn’t the universe creator that is its predecessor. But the smart writing comes out in different sorts of ways.

The connections drawn between athleticism and scaring ability are at the forefront of this narrative, and I really, really appreciate the ending. (Yes, two really’s.)

They hired an excellent cast of voices. Helen Mirren is the voice of a quietly great antagonist, Dean Hardscrabble, who is a creepy centipede dragon. Of course, Billy Crystal and John Goodman return as the voices of Mike and Sully. Steve Buscemi returns as Randy the chameleon, and the rest of the scare squad from the original film cameo as members of Omicron Kappa (Mike and Sully’s fraternity and teammates in the scare games).

Lot of Greek life humor in this movie. But it’s all in good fun, and never cringeworthy, like you might imagine it to be. The story unfolds in the college campus context, but the jokes never get hokey enough to be painful.

There are two major aspects of this movie I find intriguing. So watch out if you’re overly sensitive to spoilers.

First of all, the animation is so incredibly clear in the scene set in the human world, it really blows me away. Now I’m discussing it, might as well mention I find the scene on the moonlit lakeside rather moving.

But the backdrop is incredibly realistic. It gives me a sort of mysterious feeling.

I find the resolution of the following conflict nothing short of brilliant. They find themselves in seemingly insurmountable circumstances, and manage to pull it off. It ties together a number of themes and subtleties in an excellent fashion.

The second thing I want to mention is the video game quality of the plot. This is something I’ve been noticing in a lot of films lately and think it’s worthy of note.

When movies take on the video game format, where there are ‘levels’ and ‘bosses’ (so to speak) I rather enjoy them. I’ve only heard that After Earth has this quality. I’ve also heard The Matrix Reloaded discussed in a similar manner. Surprisingly, Despicable Me 2 incorporates a touch of this, as well. Perhaps The Hunger Games: Catching Fire utilizes it, but I haven’t thought it through yet.

I’m not certain how to illustrate this concept further. But I’ve heard it talked about in a dismissive manner, when I think it’s noteworthy. There’s something I find appealing about this sort of ‘leveling up toward achievement.’

When I can better articulate this, I will elaborate more.

If you’re looking for a good family movie, with an intriguing plot and some solid humor, Monsters University will do the trick.

But I’d suggest you check out Frozen, Despicable Me 2, or The Croods first.

Thoughts, perchance?

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