Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Monsters University (Dan Scanlon, 2013) Review

I think that this is the very first prequel that I've reviewed (I said that now but I'm probably wrong) maybe because it's the first prequel that I went out of my way to watch (Star Wars was more of an obligation) as well as another iteration of my favourite Pixar film. Can Pixar reclaim their lost passion after the likes of Cars 2 and Brave or is this strike three for them. Let's find out.

Set before the events of Monsters, Inc., a young Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) discovers a passion and follows his dream to become the worlds best scarer. He enrolls into the eponymous university where we must prove himself worthy of being on the scare program. When there, he meets his new roommate, Randy Boggs (Steve Buscemi), the head of the university, Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) and James P. Sullivan (John Goodman), a slacker who uses his famous family name to get fame. Mike and Sully now go head to head in order to become the worlds best scarer.

Writing the synopsis for this film was actually quite difficult because each act of the film has it's own story. Act 1 has the class work, Act 2 has the scare games and Act 3.....would be giving a lot away. I believe this helps the film a lot as it keeps it from getting stale and I generally had no idea which way the film was going to go. It's god to see that films still aren't afraid to throw in a twist or two in like how The Dark Knight Rises and Wreck-it Ralph did. Just like the first film, Pixar shows off how creative it can be and even ups the creativity level in the design aspect. The campus looks really nice which is filled with imaginative creatures on a higher scale than the first. Helping this is the colour of the film which makes me glad I didn't see this in the darkened 3D showing. The acting is also just as good as the first with Billy Crystal swapping with John Goodman for the main focus and therefore giving the stronger performance. The last third reminds me of what Pixar do best and is easily the highlight of the movie.

It definitely feels like a Pixar film. Cars 1, 2 and Brave just didn't feel like a film Pixar would make (Turbo and Wreck-it Ralph feel more like Pixar than them!) but Monsters University has the look, the sound (with great use of music from the first film), the tone and the message. The message itself was exactly what I needed to here on my way to university this Autumn and I felt was very well handled. There are a few flaws though. I feel that Randall was VERY underused and warranted his own sub-plot. He is glanced over with a few appearances that don't connect well making me think that there were many deleted scenes and he was a huge missed opportunity. I also feel that there were maybe one too many throwbacks to Monsters, Inc to the point where it feels a little bit forced.

Monsters University was a pleasant surprise. While some people may be turned off my the slightly goofy first half, the second half is definitely where the film shines, bringing me back to that mindset of "yes, I am definitely watching a Pixar film". The actors are just as good as before as well as great new actors and characters to the Monsters franchise. It does, however, feel like there are a few scenes missing which stop sit from being a great Pixar film but, for what it is, it's pretty good. It seems as though Pixar have their brain back.

While the first half may turn people away and it feels like there are scenes missing, the new and old cast are great, the third act is fantastic and it feels very much like a Pixar film.

Ohhh...I forgot about The Hobbit...that's a good prequel.......(how did I forget that?)

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