It won't make honor roll, but 'Monsters U' easily passes
05:00 AM, Jun 20, 2013
Though Hollywood hasn’t gotten the message, it’s the rare movie that deserves a spinoff, sequel, prequel or reboot.
Monsters University, happily, is one of them.
Its predecessor, 2001’s Monsters, Inc., was charming enough that revisiting its world is like happening upon the favorite stuffed animals of a now-grown child. The memories are sweet, and it’s fun to see the characters again.
Monsters University (* * * out of four; rated G; opens Friday nationwide) may not be as inventive as Inc., but it’s an amusing and amiable addition to Pixar’s roster of animated coming-of-age stories.
While not likely to generate tears like Toy Story 3, it’s no sputtering Cars 2, either. University is an enjoyable if slight prequel to the original, about a pair of colorful bogeymen whose job is to enter through closet-door portals and terrify children into screaming. Their shrieks fuel the monster world, which is made up of wild and woolly things of all dimensions and colors living together in spooky harmony.
Here, we learn how James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) meet and became pals. They first encounter each other as college freshmen, but the friendship takes time to develop. In fact, the pair detest each other upon meeting.
A doggedly hard worker, Mike is judged more by his tiny, lime-green, skinny-legged appearance and pipsqueak growl than by his knowledge. But he yearns to be a scarer.
Meanwhile, the burly, horned Sulley barely has to open his mouth to emit a powerful roar. A big monster on campus and a legacy student following in the footsteps of his super-scary father, Sulley is seen as a natural.
Back when Mike was even more diminutive, he set his sights on attending the elite college and forging a career as a scarer for Monsters Inc. As the monster world knows, top-tier frighteners come from the hallowed, ivy-covered Monsters U.
Plucky bookworm Mike resents the privileged Sulley. But one thing the duo have in common is a sharp sense of competition. It’s that spirit that results in their getting kicked out of the school’s prestigious Scare Program.
To be considered for readmission, they have to join forces, along with a few other monstrous misfits, to prove their terrifying mettle.
Crazy, frat-style antics are just zany enough. Campus scenes are not only vividly colored but also filled with vibrant detail. (In the art club, a fuzzy, budding Jackson Pollack douses himself in paint and flings his head on a white canvas.)
The pair’s mismatched personalities give the movie its energy. But the visuals are key. It’s impressive how much animators can convey with Mike’s one bulbous eye and toothy grin.
Only one other character is as memorable as the buddy duo: Dean Hardscrabble, a stern university official voiced to imperious perfection by Helen Mirren. But, alas, she’s the only major female character in this fearsome boys’ club. (She-monsters are relegated mostly to cheerleading roles or in the background as moms.)
While not exactly a furball Animal House, the crazy antics of these monstrous collegians do recall the raucous spirit of John Belushi and pals with a far more family-friendly vibe.