Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Monsters University


A young Mike Wazowski goes on a field trip to probably the most famous place in the monster universe; Monsters Inc. After a brief insight into the world of scaring, Mike's mind is made up; he will become a scarer. 11 years later and Mike (Billy Crystal) enrols on the Scaring course at Monsters University, where he meets up with fellow wannabe-scarers Randal, and obviously, James P. Sullivan (John Goodman), better known as Sully. After the two find themselves kicked off the course, Mike and Sully's only way to prove themselves to mean dean Abigail Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) is to take a team of hopeless misfits, join them, and win the annual Scare Games!

Technically speaking, this is Pixar's first prequel. Pixar follow-ups have been a mixed bag thus far; Toy Story 2 was a near flawless follow-up to a near flawless film, whilst Cars 2 didn't really hit the money. It's a huge relief to say that Monsters University follows the trend set by Toy story, for the most part. Generally speaking, this is not Pixar's funniest effort, nor their most original. But what it lacks in humour and originality, it makes up for in story and smarts. This could go down as Pixar's most intelligent film yet.

The characters are each so strong here. Whilst it's brilliantly clever how well loved characters from the original worm their way into this film, new additions are equally welcome, especially the other members of Oozma Kappa. Helen Mirren is also delightfully creepy as the sort-of villainous Dean of the course. But it's towards the film's final moments where all these characters truly shine, and we begin to feel as if we really know them. The world that Pixar has constructed with the Monsters franchise is faultless; until some characters are forced to enter our universe in the film's final act, we forget that these films take place in an alternate universe. The reality and realism in Monsters University is effortlessly brilliant.

The film is also extremely smartly plotted. Whilst it does take in numerous conventions of the coming-of-age/high school genre, the final act contains so many twists and turns that you just will not see coming. Even when the story seems predictable, and you go to sigh at another recent Pixar film losing its ingenuity, writer/director Dan Scanlon turns everything on it's head, and keeps you guessing. This is nothing you would expect from a child orientated, modern animated film, but Pixar yet again have proven they treat their films properly, and give them the story and justice the visuals deserve. The animation is simply beautiful.

However, Monsters University starts falling flat with it's humour. The film is funny, no doubts about it, but it just isn't as funny as it could or should be, especially when compared to it's far superior original. There are some brilliant lines, and some of these characters are hugely memorable for what they come out with, but it's all a bit patchy and formulaic.  It's not without it's moments, but this doesn't even come close to the bar set by previous Pixar efforts.

Monsters University is a good film. It's struggle is that it is 14th in a very long line of very strong films, bar one or two, and it's nigh on impossible to live up to a large number of them. But it almost feels like the producers knew this, and partially gave up half way through, because humour-wise, this is one of Pixar's weakest productions. Thankfully, whilst it's probably still in their lower quartile, this is by no means a bad effort, and audiences everywhere will love it. It may not stand out amongst various others of their greats, but Pixar have proved yet again that they are above and beyond any other animation studio out there right now.


To Summarise: It may not be as inspired as other Pixar efforts, but "Monsters University" is a story brilliantly told, with sharp, developed characters and warmth in abundance.


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