Why Monsters University is Kinda Awesome


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 ‘Let the Scare Games begin!’

The long awaited prequel to the beloved Monsters, Inc has finally been released and while Monsters University may not quite have been worth the wait, there is still much enjoyment to be gained from watching Pixar’s latest animated film.

Monsters University is an enjoyable children’s film that attempts something out of the ordinary by melding the two opposing genres, of children’s animation and teen college comedy, together. While these two genres may seem like uneasy bedfellows the film does produce some genuinely funny moments and although the experiment may not be a complete success this is a still a charming, if predictable, film.

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‘Who said a one-eyed green monster couldn’t be cute, look at that little chap’

We begin by witnessing a class trip to the legendary Monsters, Inc. factory, the class containing none other than future esteemed Scare Coach, Mike Wazowski. It is on this trip that Mike develops his lifelong ambition to become a ‘Scarer’. If so far this review has been gibberish, with terms such as Scare Coach and Scarer meaning nothing to you, then you need to stop what you’re doing immediately and go watch Monsters, Inc. to get up to speed and regain some self-respect.

We are then thrust eleven years into the future as Mike begins Monsters University as a Scare major, determined to be a success. We find him sharing rooms with none other than Randell ‘Randy’ Boggs (one of the antagonists of the first film) and it is here that Mike meets his future partner and friend James P. Sullivan, or Sulley. However the partnership we all know and love is yet to be formed and the initial dynamic between Mike and Sulley is one of antagonism rather than friendship. This antagonism is based upon Sulley’s natural ability to achieve scares in contrast to Mike, who has to intensely revise just in order to keep pace with his classes. It is an interesting origin to one of Pixar’s greatest duos and the pairs dislike of one another culminates early in the film, resulting in both Mike and Sulley being kicked off the Scare Program.

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‘Mike only packed the essentials for college, weed, Jaeger and condoms….’

It is here that the films reverts into the well-worn territory of the teen movie, having both been kicked off the course Mike hatches a plan which will see them reinstated; a plan which involves joining frats, taking on jocks and competing in the Scare Games, overcoming all the odds to win. As said it’s a tale we all know well, although having said that this may be a formula that is new to many of the movies younger viewers, viewers getting a taste of the teen comedy (albeit in an expectedly diluted form) earlier than they ever expected.

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‘Oozma Kappa tearing, or at the very least gently folding, s*** up’

It goes without saying that the film looks fantastic visually, Pixar often sets the bench mark for animation and then raises it time and again. While the film’s visuals are on a par with the best out there, the relatively sedate setting of a college campus doesn’t lend itself greatly to visual extravaganzas or jaw dropping set pieces. Despite that some of the film’s best sequences come during the Scare Games as the characters are forced into ever more dangerous, and wacky, situations. However the stand out scene, in terms of the visual, comes when Mike and Sulley become trapped in the real world. Forced into desperate measures they set a trap for the onrushing police and proceed to scare them enough to reopen the portal to their own world by utilising the shadows and dark of the, now abandoned, children’s summer camp. This homage to more traditional horror films, with adults now being the target of the terror, is amusing and looks great.

The film has a run time of 103 minutes and while this is only 11 minutes longer than the original Monsters, Inc. it feels a substantially longer experience. While this of course can be caused by a number of external factors, such as uncomfortable cinema seats opposed to the comfort of home cinema, where this film really falls down is in its ability to craft an emotional relationship to its characters. While this may sound ridiculous as we have already preconceived opinions and feelings around these characters, namely Mike and Sulley, I feel University rested on its laurels in this case. Yes we care about Mike, we find it interesting to see how he became the success we see in the original, but we already know how it ends, we know he eventually makes the big time and that he and Sulley become best friends. I’ve seen it written in various different reviews of this film, and I can’t help but concur, that what the film is lacking is a Boo (again if this means nothing, stop reading, insert Monsters, Inc. dvd and learn). Without the pivotal character of Inc. this experience cannot hope to hold a candle to the first film, particularly in terms the viewer’s emotional investment in its outcome, an outcome that we already know.

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‘Ah the end of college, the infinite possibilities, who knows where they could end up….’

All in all this is an enjoyable film, kids will love it and adults may even find some humour in the more typically R rated genre of college comedy. Yet there is no escaping the looming shadow cast by the impressive standing of the original film, and you can’t help measure this against Inc. and find it wanting. This is far from Pixar’s best offerings but is still definitely worth the watch, even if just to see the characters of Mike and Sulley on the big screen again.

This has been Tomby writing for the Awesome Update.

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