Monsters University: Pixar’s step in the right direction

For Pixar fans, Monsters University is sure to be a breath of fresh air. Creative Commons
For Pixar fans, Monsters University is sure to be a breath of fresh air. Creative Commons

No matter is the age, Disney has impacted someone’s childhood in one way or another. While some of us were too young to experience the 90’s Disney “Renaissance” (consisting of films like The Lion King and Aladdin in theatres), we were fortunate enough to grow up with the CG  animated team that Disney purchased: Pixar.  Pixar created a variety of franchises, and were known for not only being top-notch in the animation department, but also in terms of story and characters.

However, in recent years, many argue that Pixar has decreased in quality with the release of films such as Cars 2 and Brave.  While these were not completely awful films, the public was used to Pixar making spectacular movies rather than “okay” ones.  Now the company has taken one of their franchises back in time and we have Monsters University, a prequel to 2001’s Monsters Inc.  Can Pixar reclaim its former glory?

While Monsters Inc. focused more on Sully, Monsters University focuses more on Mike. Mike becomes a freshman at Monsters University and dreams to become a scarer.  He competes against his future friend James Sullivan, who comes from a whole family of scarers.  Both however, are rejected from the scaring program for opposite reasons (Mike for not being scary and Sully relying too much on his looks). They get a chance to get back in the scaring program by competing in the Scare Games.  Their team is the most pathetic fraternity on campus.

Pixar is still struggling in the story department as they were in the last two films. The plot is clichéd, and considering all of the characters in the first Monsters Inc., I can’t help but feel that there were plenty of missed opportunities.  Randall could have been interesting, but is hardly focused on. This really irked me, considering the setup they had to tell the beginning of the rivalry between him and the monstrous matchup of Mike and Sully.

Some of the new characters, like the bully, did not really interest me. He’s just there to be the typical bully and theres no real unique set-up or payoff to the character. They also ignored elements of the first film that could have been addressed and made for interesting moments. Were you wondering how Mike met his Medusa-esque girlfriend Celia, or how Randall met his assistant? If so, then too bad, you will not see them.

That said, this is better than Cars 2 and Brave for a few reasons.  The first is the chemistry between the two main characters, Mike and Sully. While Boo may have been one of the best contributions to the first movie, her absence can help Mike and Sully develop their relationship. Both of them try to hide their vulnerabilities, but when those come out, we see what they were truly hiding, I felt more invested into it.

The second reason is the climax.  The finale was very entertaining, and the fact that it takes place after the games does not make it feel clichéd or rushed. They definitely saved the best scare for laughs.

All of the voice actors did a fantastic job for the film, with Billy Crystal and John Goodman standing out as the stars.  They give the characters a great sense of personality, which felt lacking in the last few Pixar films. They weren’t too serious or trying too hard to be funny; it was a nice balance

It’s extremely hard to try and compare the animation and compare it to Monster’s Inc., because it’s obvious to see that the quality has drastically improved over the last 12 years.   Everything’s so detailed, colorful, and just pure eye-candy. There’s not a background or monster that looks boring. Plus, the headmaster is a dragon and you can never go wrong with that.

It is usually on rare occasion that I praise a movie for its music, but Randy Newman has unleashed some catchy tunes. It’s upbeat, jazzy, and everything to expect from a Randy Newman soundtrack, and it fits very well with the animation from the movie.

While Monster’s University may be cliched and have some missed opportunities, it was worth the watch.  With some great leads, a worthwhile finale, gorgeous animation and a catchy soundtrack, Monsters University is a step in the right direction for Pixar.

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