Monday, June 24, 2013

'Monsters University' a Worthy Prequel to 'Monsters Inc.'

The best compliment I can pay Monsters University is that there was a point near the end of the movie when I really didn't know in what direction the story was going or how it would end. That is no small feat for a prequel where we know our heroes, that punky little eyeball Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and the furry, ferocious James P. Sullivan (John Goodman), will ultimately end up as the superstar team of Monsters Inc. It's also a reminder that when Pixar is at the top of their game, no studio in Hollywood, animation or otherwise, can match their storytelling skills. Monsters University is a highly entertaining--and sometimes surprising--animated romp that puts its own unique spin on college coming-of-age comedies.

Mike and Sulley are both students enrolled in Monsters University's prestigious Scare School. This is the place that all ambitious monsters aspire to if they want to be the best of the best of the best converting children's screams into energy at Monsters Inc. Mike is the tenacious, nose-to-the-grindstone type, low on talent, but huge on smarts and determination. Sulley is the natural-born scarer with little interest in tactics or technique. He's making it through school strictly on his raw ability and a family name that's legendary in the annals of M.U. alumni. Mike is driven to ace every test. Sulley is content to skate by on his talent alone. Naturally, when they first meet, they become jealous adversaries. But, when circumstances force them to team up with a rag-tag group of outcasts in the campus-wide "Scare Games," they form an uneasy alliance that will make or break their future at M.U.

Monsters University borrows liberally from other memorable school age films from Animal House to Revenge of the Nerds to Harry Potter, with touches of Carrie and The Hunger Games thrown in for good measure. Writer/director Dan Scanlon and the rest of the Pixar crew clearly have an affinity for these films, but they treat them with playful reverence--not as a ripoff--keeping Monsters University fun and fresh, never stale.

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