Review: Monster’s University (2013, Dan Scanlon)

monsters-university-winds-of-changeRATING: 6/10

Director: Dan Scanlon
Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Peter Sohn, Joel Murray, Steve Hayes, Charlie Day, Alfred Molina
Screenplay: Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird & Dan Scanlon

When “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012) came out last year, I thought Disney/Pixar redeemed itself by producing such a fantastic picture, putting behind that disaster-fest that was “Cars 2” back in 2011. This gave me hope that “Monster’s University” was going to be equally as great, but after seeing it, it was a rather a mediocre effort made by the studio to make big money. Nostalgia hit me when I was watching it, of course it did, because Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) has become sort of icons for our generations’s movie going audience. The whole nostalgia factor that “Monster’s University” had within its rather shallow storyline and pointless message became the film’s ultimate saving grace.

We open the film with a young Mike, as he dreams of attending “Monster’s University” to become one of the best scarers in the future. You instantly know that the film is a pre-quel to Disney’s hit 2001 motion picture “Monster’s Inc.”. Mike is suddenly thrown out of the “Scaring Program” of their school when him and newest rival, the popular James Sullivan (Sully), do a completely immature scare fight in front of Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). In order to redeem themselves, Mike and Sully join “The Scaring Games”, with a group of fraternity misfits, to be able to win back a position in the program.

I watched the movie with my little nephew, and he seemed to enjoy it as he was in awe with the bright colours and Pixar’s comedic writings. That’s a good thing, because in the end of the day, “Monster’s University” is in fact a children’s movie. What I don’t like is that they forgot all about the older audiences, who practically grew up with the series. I’m not sure if this is true, but a lot of people tell me that Disney really releases their films in order to have the original audiences connect with characters we’ve grown to know so well. I get all the college references and all but the story and the screenplay was completely lacking something. There is no real connection for those of us who loved the original movie. It was flat, and ended up becoming a form of cheap thrills and comical moments to try and make us laugh. The reason why “Toy Story 3” was so successful was because the storyline was so well thought of. The imagery of “Monster’s University” is class A (off course, it’s Pixar) and brought about a lot of nostalgia for us who went to see it, but unlike “Toy Story 3”, it lacked any true heart.

One may say that it’s not fair to judge the acting skills of actors who can’t be seen, but in reality it’s very hard to act with just your voice. The talented cast that provided for the voices of the array of characters in the movie were  all very good. Such a talented force can do this job in their sleep. So I don’t have much to say about that. Especially Helen Mirren, who’s voice can be plugged into anyone and sound absolutely regal. She is the Queen, and all.

In the end of the day, there isn’t really a lot going on in “Monster’s University”. The trailer seems fun and gets us all excited to run to the theatres to see it, but the truth is the film won’t be remembered as well as the first one. It’ll ride the lines of many Disney sequels that never made the big BIG time. Sure, it’ll probably make hundreds of millions of dollars but that’s what Hollywood is, it’s first and foremost a business. I’m just sad that they didn’t take this opportunity to really create something special for the audiences of the new generation and for us older people who has been waiting for this film for quite some time. Try again, Disney/Pixar. If “Finding Nemo” does come up, think about it real hard.

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