Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Directed by: Dan Scanlon
Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren
As always, a short film precedes Pixar’s latest. As with last year’s La Luna, The Blue Umbrella is a silent masterpiece that captures the originality and magic that flows through Pixar’s veins. It’s a shame that nothing in Monsters University can equal the delight of this cinematic prelude. That’s not to say that this prequel to Pixar’s 2001 timeless classic feels like a complete waste; it’s visually spectacular and undeniably funny. However, there’s also no escaping that as a whole, Monsters University feels like a colossal waste of time.
We find Mike Wazowski about to start his first semester at Monsters University, with dreams of being a scarer at Monsters, Inc. While there he meets James P. “Sulley” Sullivan, another aspiring scarer who’s more interested in enjoying university life than studying. Things get competitive between Mike and Sulley, eventually leading to a confrontation that leaves them both expelled. Their only chance for salvation is to work as a team at the university’s ‘Scare Games’, and thus a lifelong friendship is born.
The real problem with Monsters University is its lack of jeopardy; you know the films outcome before the opening credits have finished rolling. Because of this the film feels redundant, struggling to hold your interest with the university’s ‘Scare Games – a kind of Tri-Wizard Tournament; it even has a maze challenge. It’s certainly nice to be spending time with Mike and Sulley again, arguably two of Pixar’s greatest characters, but you just wish you could invest more interest in their plight.
Thankfully, there’s enough humor to keep both the young and old reasonably entertained. There’s a host of visual gags and quick one-liners that hit the mark, even if some of the best jokes you’ve already seen countless times in the trailer. With its university setting, there is also ample opportunity to riff on high-school genre and many of the movie references, which range from Animal House to Carrie, are both subtle and successful.
It also looks spectacular, with the many varied monsters bringing this sumptuous world to life. That said, Monsters University is yet another example of a film that really doesn’t need the 3D conversion, the traditional 2D presentation being equally as impressive visually.
Sadly, you can’t help but leave Monsters University feeling disappointed. It may look great and get laughs, but it won’t capture your heart like the original did – something that can’t help but make one worry about Finding Dory, due for release in 2015. Maybe it’s time for Pixar to go back to the drawing board because, as The Blue Umbrella proved, when they’re at the top of their game they cannot be rivaled in terms of universally spellbinding entertainment.