Skip to content

Monsters University

Monsters University is an enjoyable film, a riff on the college comedy, borrowing liberally from “Revenge of the Nerds.”   But the more I think about it, the more problems I detect with its execution.  Which is maybe further proof that it’s better just to watch movies (especially summer-release movies) and not think about them.

To begin with, what age group is this made for?  Tonally, it’s definitely pitched at kids – it lacks the kind of deeper resonance that has made Pixar films favorites among adults for the last decade.  And I’m okay with that, these days I’m feeling like we need to let Pixar off the hook a little, and let them just make decent kids’ movies.  But does “Monsters U” work as a kid’s movie? The premise of “Monsters, Inc.” felt a little difficult for children to grasp, and it’s even more so here.  You need to understand that in the monster world, children’s screams are a valuable source of energy, and the monsters evoking those screams are just doing their job.  But what does a first grader understand about energy production and usage? Do they really get that the TV and dishwasher and nightlight all work because of the coal plant?  I doubt it.  The first movie hedged this bet effectively, both by explaining it to death, and by forging a paternal bond between Sully and Boo.  When watching “Monsters, Inc.,” a five year old doesn’t need to understand the dynamics of energy production in the monster world to understand who the good guys are; they see Sully cuddling Boo, and they get it.  But in “Monsters University,”  there’s no Boo.  There’s no explanation either.  The children are scarce, and when they appear, are a source of energy, and nothing else.  How does that play for a five-year-old, especially one who hasn’t seen the first movie?

Serving as a prequel to “Monsters, Inc,” we get to know one-eyed, walking ping-pong ball Mike Wazowsky and intimidating-except-for-the-purple-polka-dots Jimmy Sullivan (Sully) as polar opposite students.  Mike is all book knowledge and technique; he can ace a pop quiz and demonstrate zombie drooling with profiency, but can’t spook a tabby cat to save his life. Sully comes from a family of prestigious scarers, and skates on his reputation; he’s got a mighty roar and intimidating physique, but not much else.

The two are rivals until they get kicked out of scare school (for the dumbest of reasons) and must find a way to prove to the dean (Helen Mirren, onscreen as a creepy cross between a dragon and a centipede) that they have what it takes to be truly scary.  The path to victory has them enlisting a fraternity of lovable losers and competing in the scare games, which bear more than a slight resemblance to the Triwizard Tournament in Harry Potter.

Surprisingly, “Monsters University” never deals with its biggest plot point: Mike loves scaring but just isn’t scary.  Where does he fit?  Everyone around him says “nowhere,” including the dean of the school, who relegates him to classes on can manufacturing.  Anyone who’s seen (and remembers) the first film knows that Mike never manages to become scary. In “Monsters, Inc.,” He’s basically Sulley’s handler, but in the timeline of “Monsters U,” that job doesn’t exist. (Until the montage at the very end, when suddenly it does.)

What changed? Since Pixar movies generally try to play by the same rules as the real world, you would assume that the change didn’t happen easily.  No corporation is going to employ two people to do the same job they used to get done with just one person. Mike and Sully would have had to fight hard, and demonstrate compellingly, that the handler position was necessary.  There would have to be some kind of sea change in the scaring industry.  This is a movie I’d like to see; it’d be a creative take on the “workplace crusader” genre.  Granted, it would be hard to make it kid-friendly, but Pixar has never before shied away from a challenge (for heaven’s sake, “Wall-E” was about a lone robot stranded on a garbage suffocated planet, but they made THAT kid-friendly) but that’s not the movie that got made.

But I’ll confess, willingly, that this is just me grousing, because that’s what I do – I think, and I grouse. There’s a lot to like about “Monsters University,” but none of it is all that interesting to write about.  The animation is beautiful, as it always is.  There’s a lot of fun attention to detail on the college campus.  The voice work is very good, and I’ll give a special shout-out to Helen Mirren, who makes Dean Hardscrabble quietly scary.  The supporting characters are fun variations on old stereotypes. It’s well-paced, and never feels like it’s trying too hard.  And so forth.

A lot of ink (or… pixels?  what-have-you) have been spilled about the decline of Pixar, and “Monsters University” does nothing to reverse that trend. It’s about on-par with “Brave,” (not the adherence to formula in both) better than “Cars 2,” and not even approaching the four films before that.  I’d say that at this point, Pixar has settled in to making perfectly adequate kids’ entertainment, similar in quality and style to DreamWorks.  They’re not annoying, and they’re better crafted than most. They’re not the uncontested champs in the animation world anymore, but they’re still top tier. What’s so wrong with that?

Be Sociable, Share!

Posted in The Movie Blog. Tagged with , , , .

4 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Also gamers often realize numerous brilliant things that occur by enjoying an outing inside your spare time.
    The developer also confirmed that certain important feature that improves
    the build ceiling in-game. In longevity it is best to amass possessions together ωith
    devices as ωell regarding create а lot better resources οr regular food that
    will help manufacture effective аnd therefore lesѕ risky properties to assist κeep outsiԁe of harms method.
    The game comes with a wonderful world, where you’ll release your head
    to make anything and have eliminate anything. Make this moat as
    close or far away from your home as you wish, be sure that you use torches inside the
    moat’s borders or you will be stuck inside
    the area with monsters at night. This is most favored amonst
    the action developers, simply because they can develop their creativity utilizing
    it. The very last thing that you wish to happen is to find out for the middle of somewhere and try one with the Minecraft Cheats that you found simply for it not to work.
    It takes 20 mins in total with ten minutes of daytime although 1.
    Whether you’re seasoned gamer and even newcomer searching
    for the globe for your personal, you may need a
    host to try out Minecraft in. This is made for individuals who have looked for any kingcraft seed
    that has some structures or houses if you spawn. There are even some methods to generate income from Minecraft.
    To develop a portal towards the Nether, you need
    to first obtain 14 blocks of Obsidian. Almost all problems must be answered by digging across the
    site. Just anticipate to hole up or defend yourself during the night.
    It was noted which it can be beneficial to print what they are called and logos of beer koozies as being a
    advertising tool for businesses. Make guaranteed to write down the
    IP address with the server so that you can let others have in mind the IP address
    of one’s server. Any member in the Global Recreation Developers Affiliation (IGDA) and market pros from in regards to the globe might be nominated for the Recreation Developers Option Award, cost-free from charge.
    DVD players fell close to $250 for any good machine, and the marketplace fragmented into ‘budget’, ‘mid-market’ and ‘high end players’, targeting buyers who just
    wanted an affordable DVD player, or even a good brand which
    they trusted, or a niche, top quality player to fit in with their expensive home cinema system.
    It also can be relatively short and quick to finish.
    They paid close attention to detail which created one with the best
    games of the year that it is possible to truly lose yourself within. Is likely to these
    nonetheless note good results, or can gamers be
    much more attracted to a smaller amount expensive
    “works in development” they can update and tailor-make with DLC.
    That’s why it works with a lot of program assets and might encounter difficulties whilst running.
    I love this idea given it allows more people the ability to
    learn mafia wars than was once available. When Sonic
    Colours is a its best, it can be truly an un-missable sonic title for fans from the series.

    Soy proteins and whey are a good deal in the
    common examples.

  2. I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s equally educative and engaging,
    and without a doubt, you’ve hit tthe nasil oon the head.
    The issue is something whic too feww men annd women arre speaking intelligently about.
    I’mvery happy that I came across this in my search for somethiung regarding this.

  3. You have to be able to get to it before you can use
    it. The last and most important piece to completing your Ninja Turtle costume, is the shell.
    A local martial arts school in Longwood, Florida, Hero
    Academy, is planning a series of weapon seminars that will be open to all other martial artists.

  4. Just by changing to that game from Mega Millions,
    you will be approximately 12 times more likely to win. Dodge, zig-zag, run, sprint,
    jump, evade, even dance if you have to, but FOR GOD’S SAKE, MOVE FOR YOUR LIFE AND DON’T STOP.

    And if poker is a game of luck, it will lie under the gambling laws.

Some HTML is OK

(never shared)

or, reply to this post via trackback.