Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion
Written by: Dan Glerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon
Is Pixar running out of steam?
Pixar - a brand name long associated with animated greatness - has recently started following up more of their eye-catching and fundamentally brilliant films with sequels. While not unheard of in the studio world, (or even for Pixar!), the sequels are slowly starting to creep out of the woodwork in larger numbers.
While Monsters U isn't specifically a 'sequel' - it is actually a prequel - it doesn't have the same charm and wit that the original carried. That's to be expected of course. However, what's unexpected is that Pixar - a company famed for originality and powerful storytelling would take your average tropes from a typical college comedy (minus the heavy amount of stoners/toned down drinking) and just pop their characters into that situation. It might have worked too, had the characters been so wildly different to their live-action compatriots.
As it turns out, Monsters U, while enjoyable, is nowhere near the 'Pixar Peak'.
It wasn't really meant to be - they have other original films coming out for that. It was meant to be a good addition to the Monsters universe and to flesh out the characters. Oh, and of course, make them a fair bit of change. All credit to Pixar, it seems to have worked.
Monsters U is the story of how Mike (Crystal) and 'Sulley' Sullivan (Goodman) met in university. The plot follows the typical college tropes - one eager, lonely but brilliant student doesn't know how to let loose. He doesn't understand that the best thing, in the most critical/clutch moments of his life, would be to just go with gut instinct and passion. The other is from a famous family but incredibly lazy - and he just coasts along. Most obviously - the two don't get along at first and it takes a team of misfits to bring them together to work for a common goal.
In a sense, it's a nice way to introduce a generation of children to the common tropes - they don't have to watch the terrible '21 and Over' for example to learn the basic characters in this film. For them, this'll be new territory. The underdog overcomes the arrogant-jock types story? Brilliant - welcome to the film world, kids.
But it is rather funny at times.
Endearing, too. You can't help but smile as the misfit Monsters learn to work together.
The real problem is not just a lack of originality that made us fall in love with the monsters in 2001 - it's also down to things such as pacing and direction. The story seems to wonder aimless in some early segments, filled with a frantic energy and then a sudden slow down - then head out in a wilderness only to be brought back by one of the common college film setups.
A lot of the praise for this film is for the score - it carries the film into places where it wants to go, without being overbearing. Which can be hard for some animated films. Credit must also go to Crystal and Goodman - their burgeoning friendship/friendly rivalry comes alive, in large part, thanks to their voicing abilities. Despite following a set script - the voice chemistry between the two make the film for easy listening.
The rest of the cast is brilliant too - but it's to be expected. The great finds, however, are Mirren as the cold and authoritarian dean - and Fillion as the 'braggadocious' leader of the campus' most coveted fraternity.
Trivia: Screenings of the film across the cinemas include Saschka Unfeld's 'Blue Umbrella' - a bittersweet short about love, hope and desperation - told through a wonderful story that's just like Pixar's heyday ethos - powerful, simple and dynamic storytelling. Enchanting at the core - but a beautiful start to the film.
What the Mr. Thought:
Take your kids to see the film if you have any - they'll love it. If you've seen Monsters Inc, you'll enjoy this one too. Not a must-see recommendation, but a heartfelt and fun joyride none the less.
What the Misses Thought:
M U all the way! Perfect film to see if you have children, maybe not so much if you don't. However I personally love a good Pixar film and while this isn't one of the best (and doesn't quite reach the level of the first instalment) it was still heartwarming, funny and enjoyable.
On a final note from me: put that thing back where it came from, or so help me, so help me, so help me, la la la (boom boom boom!)
Nothing will beat that for me!
But remember, you didn't hear that from us!
The Mr. and the Misses