PIXAR made a prequel.... hmmm...what to expect of it... Of course, being a Disney fanatic, I rushed out to see it on Friday...
So, Monsters University, or Monsters U, let's get started. The image below was taken from our position at the soon to be defunct Alamo Drafthouse Lake Creek, here in Austin. Well, they're moving just slightly to a new spot, but even further away from me (near the Lakeline Mall, I think, and it's nearly open, but I haven't seen it yet), which sucks. I REALLY liked that Drafthouse. I love the lobby area, love the food, the service... Anyways,... Oh, and that's not Monsters U on the screen, it was the blooper real from the first film; part of the preshow as the theater slowly filled to capacity. Had to catch the latest showing since all the screenings were selling out!
There I sat at my favorite theater, with my favorite pizza and a Coke (by the way, tried their peanut butter and banana cookies, and they're phenomenal), unsure of what I was about to see. The Toy Story sequels were fantastic, lest we forget, but Cars 2... I eventually came to admit that Cars 2 is entertaining, but it's still not very good as a sequel, and that franchise is still about toy sales, let's be honest. Plus, before Monsters U started, I had to sit through a trailer for "Planes" that made me feel so ashamed for PIXAR. It was really sad. And then, I finally saw a trailer for "Turbo". Wow, that didn't look much better. I'm sure "Despicable Me 2" will be great, but that one had kind of a weak trailer too. And you know me, I'm generally easy to please!
Anyway, Monsters University is preceded by an all-new Disney/PIXAR short cartoon, "The Blue Umbrella". Now, the title alone, as well as the opening visuals, may cause one to think of the old film we all used to be shown in grade school, "The Red Balloon". Naturally, there are some connections that can be made, but actually, this short is far more like Disney's old tale of "Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet", to hats that encounter each other in the city one day and fall in love. Yeah, this short is a lot like that, but it's also very reminiscent of the recent "Paperman" short too. And, actually, I would say this accomplishes successfully something that Paperman didn't do very well. It was my one complaint in an otherwise excellent short: the means by which the two ships passing in the night managed to find their way to each other. In Paperman, paper airplanes magically decide to push the boy towards the girl. It is not explained and just seems like a last minute idea from rushed filmmakers or something. How do these paper airplanes suddenly come alive? It isn't explained. It was a plot point that just came out of nowhere. In The Blue Umbrella, the title character is guided, helped along really, to the lovely Red Umbrella he discovers and quickly loses in the crowd by the other inanimate objects in the city. It was okay for the inanimate objects in this short to be alive without explanation because the two leads already were. That was the nature of the world in which the story took place. In Paperman, the magic comes out of nowhere and is not explained. So, point goes to "The Red Balloon", even if it doesn't feel all that original after watching Johnny Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet in "Make Mine Music". Also worth noting, this short is computer animated, and yet, using a couple of new techniques, you would swear this was mostly live-action. It is an amazing achievement! Though they avoid showing any truly living things, like the faces of the humans involved, this is still the most amazingly realistic cgi I can recall even having seen! Overall, a very nice little short to open with. And, as always, I commend Disney for continuing to show all-new shorts before many of their features (the PIXAR ones always do so).
Okay, okay, finally, I'm getting to the main feature. "Monsters University" begins with the little, round, one-eyed, green monster, Mike Wazowski, as a small child on a school field trip to Monsters, Inc. It's on that fateful day that Mike decides he wants to be a scarer. Scarers, who collect energy in the form of human children's screams, as we know from the first film, are loved and respected by all the monster world. They even have their own collectible cards, like baseball players! So, Mike sets himself on a mission to be the best scarer of them all, and this leads him to eventually attend Monsters U, where the best scarers come from.
At Monsters U, Mike struggles to fit in, but the bottom line is that he is not very scary. He accidentally meets James Sullivan, a big, hairy monster with a family history of great scarers. Sulley coasts through life on the fame of his name and the chill of his fantastic roar. Everyone loves him, and he's expected to do great naturally. Even he expects it, so he doesn't study all day and night, like Mike does. The two are complete opposites, and initially they don't get along well. Sulley is a bit of an entitled jerk, actually, while Mike ends up with the nerdy label and crowd. When a major test causes their competitive natures to break loose against each other one day, an accident happens that causes both Mike and Sulley to be kicked out of the scare program, and eventually it seems their only way back in is to win the upcoming Scare Games, which they have to resort to joining the lamest fraternity on campus to enter. They do so, but they have a huge task ahead of them in getting their new frat brothers to become good scarers also. But, I'm already giving too much of this movie away, so let me sum it up... "Monsters U" is a classic college movie. It plays up all the cliches of classic college comedies. Consider it your classic college comedy without the dirty stuff. It's a lot like Revenge of the Nerds and the like. But, there's one very special thing about this movie. It doesn't end the way you might expect it to based on past college movies! Even if we DO know what happens to Mike and Sulley in the future. And, ya know, while other web reviewers have been hating this movie for that, I have to say, it's a ballsy move, and I love it! I loved this movie! It was truly funny throughout, and in the end, it didn't go with the cliche ending after all, even though it teased us with it for a moment!
So, yeah, I highly recommend this one. It was an interesting idea that seemed out of nowhere, but it actually does flow well into "Monsters, Inc." I know many of you wanted more of Boo, but honestly, wouldn't that have probably disappointed you in the long run? Seeing Boo older, and so much chance for a story that would be a let down as a follow up? Prequels have the problem that we already know where things are going to end up, but we also don't have to see favorite characters older, or with kids, or having their happy, tragic or bittersweet endings altered. Now, admittedly, "Monsters University" is not as fantastic a film as "Monsters, Inc." was. I still say (and always will) that Monsters, Inc. should have won the Oscar that year over Shrek, no contest! However, Monsters U is still an excellent little film. It is successful as a comedy and it has all the heart you'd expect from a PIXAR film too. And visually these films just can't get any better! Go see this one! It's another win from PIXAR. It's not their most original work to date, but it's a very, very good time!