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Monsters University - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Monsters University
Directing: B-
Acting: B
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B-
Special Effects: B+

Context can be important. Had Monsters University come out, say, before Cars 2, I might have liked it better. But to me perfectly honest, by historical Pixar standards at least, Monsters University stands as a shining example of mediocrity. It makes me miss the Pixar glory days -- between the years of 1995 and 2004, they produced six films that were all outstanding. There was a very minor slump with Cars (very good but not outstanding) and Ratatouille</i> (merely good), but those were followed by yet another three outstanding films -- it seemed like the studio spent, on average, a full fifteen years at the top of their game.

The 2010s have thus far not been so kind to them. Don't get me wrong, nothing they release is bad -- but these guys set the bar so high, when something is merely good, it's a genuine disappointment. Cars 2 offered nothing particularly to justify its existence beyond cashing in; last year's Brave stepped back up to "very good" -- and just when a prequel comes out to one of the studio's most beloved films, setting expectations very high yet again, Monsters University comes afflicted with what I'll call "Cars 2 Syndrome." It's fun, but frankly has a little bit of the feel of a typical straight-to-DVD sequel.

Monsters University was packed to the gills with wit, and featured dazzling animation. By contrast, Monsters University merely stumbles on bits of wit here and there, and while it's certainly fun to look at, has no particularly memorable animation. Some people are raving about this movie, for reasons that escape me, but that seems to stem from a love for the characters; few people are saying much about the animation.

Pixar is better than this. They have a team with fresh and original ideas to share. They can even do it with sequels -- they managed not one, but two outstanding sequels to Toy Story. To date, that's the only Pixar franchise that truly succeeds with multiple installments. Monsters University represents a bit of "Ho hum, another Pixar movie." That does not honor the legacy of the animation studio.

When Monsters University opens, introducing us to Mike (Billy Crystal) as an elementary school-aged monster, it's cute but not clever. He goes on a field trip to Monsters Inc. and visits the scare floor, where his lifelong dream of being a "Scarer" -- visiting children in their dark bedrooms to get them to scream and thus power the monster world -- begins. He doesn't meet Sully (John Goodman) until a jump forward to his first day of classes at Monsters University. He actually meets Randy (Steve Buscemi) first, introducing us to the character who was the villain in Monsters Inc. and is strangely underused here.

Mike and Sully, after some initial tensions, eventually join a fraternity of misfit monsters who become the underdogs in the "Scare Games," which become the centerpiece of the film. This does amp up the entertainment factor, as watching all these monster games is undeniably fun. But the sharply witted gags are less frequent and rather dulled down in comparison not just to Monsters Inc> but to the majority of other Pixar films before it.

I'll cop to falling trap to the expectation game, but here's a question: would Monsters University be as well received had Monsters Inc. never existed? If this was the first introduction to these characters? I don't think it would. Pixar offers us nothing new with this movie, nothing with any kind of exhilarating zip. One scene in which Mike and Sully have to conspire to get screams from adults -- an interesting challenge -- comes close. But coming close just isn't the same.

A relatively good time is had by most in MONSTERS UNIVERSITY.

Overall: B-
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