Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Monsters University

Release Date:  June 21, 2013
Running Time: About 110 minutes
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi
Who to see it with: Any animation fan


Monsters U is Pixar’s prequel to the wonderful Monsters, Inc. This installment follows Mike Wazowski and Sully during their college years at Monsters University. The film is directed by Dan Scanlon and written by Robert L. Baird (who contributed content for Monsters, Inc). Being a prequel and coming twelve years after the original, I was worried that this film would not live up to the high expectations set by the original. And while it doesn't quite reach its predecessor’s level, Monsters U is a charming, entertaining, and worthy prequel that should not be missed.

The plot follows Sully and Mike’s antics during their college years. The story is well done with plenty of references to the first film while also capturing some of what is great (and not so great) about college. These college references can at times 
be cliche, but many of them are great and laugh out loud funny. The story also holds plenty of surprises. There were several moments when I thought the movie was becoming predictable only to have it take an unexpected and delightful turn. Along the way, you will meet a good cast of new characters and have plenty of cameos from your Monsters, Inc. favorites. 

This is a Pixar film so the animation is gorgeous. Every movie of theirs is more beautiful than the previous effort and Monsters U is no exception. Pixar does an amazing job of creating a believable university environment with a monsters twist. Speaking of monsters, the animators clearly put a great deal of effort into making the monsters more monstrous. The fur and slime effects are particularly beautiful as is movement for the various types of legs, tentacles, wings, and everything in between. They also managed to create some incredible depth of field and stellar lighting effects. This lighting is especially noticeable during “scare” scenes as it does a great job of setting the mood and building tension. 

As with the animation, sound and voice acting are excellent. Monsters University comes alive with the sounds of a typical college—well a typical monster’s college. The sounds of class, of the quad, of parties, and other aspects of college life help to bring you into this wonderfully created world.  The expected college stereotypes—jocks, nerds, frat guys, etc.—are here and their voice acting is funny and well delivered. Although you can recognize some of the voice actors, they are not distracting and never pull you out of the movie. 

Monsters U is a very good movie. It's not better than the original, but that’s expected when the source material is so good. However, Monsters U is a fun, charming prequel that achieves what so many other prequels fail to do: tell a meaningful, entertaining, and interesting tale while filling in the back-story of the characters and world that you love. 

See it.

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