Review: MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Review: MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013)

 
Oh, look, Mike.... you got taller!
Neither inventive nor original by Pixar standard, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY still qualifies as a colorful, entertaining and genuinely well-meaning animated prequel for all ages.
 

Twelve years ago, MONSTERS, INC. (2001) was among Pixar's most commercially and critically-successful animated feature of all-time. Even though it had a fair share of flaws, that highly-inventive animated feature was particularly memorable for some of the most memorable characters ever seen in a Pixar movie: Who could have resist the true friendship between the furry and horned James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) and his best friend, short and round creature Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal)? And of course, not to forget the oh-so-adorable little child Boo (Mary Gibbs). Now, cut to the present time, it never crosses my mind that Pixar chooses to do a prequel to MONSTERS, INC. for the first time ever. That got me thinking -- is it really that necessary? First of all, there's no sense of inventiveness or originality to be found in this Pixar's 14th animated feature, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY. But rest assured that MONSTERS UNIVERSITY manages to compensate those lackluster foundations with emotional storyline, identifiable characters and plenty of crowd-pleasing moments.

WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY opens with a prologue introducing the short and green, young Mike Wazowski (Noah Johnston) who has a dream of becoming a scarer one day. Even though his fellow classmates immediately write him off as a failure, Mike remains very determined and optimistic. Years later, Mike (now voiced by Billy Crystal) finds himself finally enrolls at the prestigious Monsters University as a freshman. He quickly make friend with his fellow roommate, the shy and chameleon-like Randy (Steve Buscemi). During Mike's first class in the "Scaring School", this is where he first meets the ego-centric James "Sulley" Sullivan (John Goodman) at which they started out as sworn enemies. Both of them ends up challenging against each other for the final exam, only to be flunked and kicked out of the Scaring School by the stern Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). However, Mike is not willing to give up just yet and continues to pursue his dream by joining outcast fraternity Oozma Kappa and signing them up for the annual Scare Games competition. Coincidentally, Mike is forced to accept Sulley as well because he is short of one team member to qualify for the competition. Dean Hardscrabble makes a deal with Mike that if they win, the whole group will be welcomed back into the Scaring School. But if they lose, they have to leave Monsters University forever. Nevertheless, Mike is brave enough to accept her challenge and determines to win the competition at all cost to prove his worth.

THE GOOD STUFF
 
Dan Scanlon's feature directing debut (who was a longtime Pixar storyboard artist) is top-notch as he knows how to balance between comedy and drama with equal flair. Even though the story is nothing new (well, what can you expect from an animated feature that sets in a campus?), Scanlan and his team of screenwriters (Robert L. Baird and Daniel Gerson) are smart enough to play on the tried-and-true formula of campus comedies (among the obvious inspiration here is the 1984's REVENGE OF THE NERDS) to their advantages. Best of all, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY earns extra point for exploring some engaging themes such as the importance of teamwork, trust, friendship and embracing failure. As for the voice cast, it's really great to see both Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprising their iconic roles with such effortless charm. Meanwhile, Helen Mirren makes the best of her limited screen time as the sternly-voiced Dean Hardscrabble. Visually speaking, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is colorful and vibrant enough to keep your eyes hooked on the big screen.

MOST MEMORABLE MOMENT(S)
  
The hilarious gag where a slug (Bill Hader) tries his best not to arrive late on the first day of school; the brief scene where the perky Ms. Squibbles' (Julia Sweeney) unexpected choice of music while waiting inside the van; the highly-entertaining "Scare Games" sequences; and the climactic finale that sees both Mike and Sulley struggling to fight their way back to their own world after being trapped at the human world.

THE BAD STUFF
  
At times, some of the visual gags and one-liners throughout the animated feature are lackluster.
  
FINAL WORDS

Alright, which one of you fools make fun of my horns?

Although MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is far from being one of the studio's best efforts, it remains one of the must-see summer movie of the year. By the way, do stick around after the credits for another hilarious gag involving the same slug.


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