Saturday, June 29, 2013

Monsters University review

I'm a big Pixar fan, but I must confess that I didn't see Cars 2.  I suppose that I might one day, but the fact that the first one isn't exactly my favorite (I still liked it) and that it received some pretty poor reviews, I didn't feel  like I was in much of a hurry to watch it.  I did see Brave though, and while I liked it, it didn't do all that much for me.  Like some other fans no doubt felt, I worried that Pixar was falling into a slump.  Perhaps the problem though was that expectations got REALLY high after Wall-E, Up, and Toy Story 3.

I've really gotten a lot of mileage out of my Pixar blu-rays since my son, Logan, was born.  He has seen most of them - some several times now.  He's not quite three years old, but he'll sit down and watch a whole movie from beginning to end.  This got my wife and I to thinking that he'd probably be ready for his first trip to the movie theater.  The trick was that we not only wanted to find something appropriate, but we wanted something that we wouldn't mind sitting through ourselves.  (And trust me, after seeing the previews for some of the animated movies coming out soon, there are quite a few that I would definitely mind watching.)

Thankfully, this summer brings us Monsters University.  We figured that would be a good one for the obvious reasons, but also because both my wife and I enjoyed Monsters, Inc. Not only that, but Logan has watched that one quite a few times, so he's familiar with the characters.

I was definitely impressed, and it was a lot better than I thought it would be.  I'll even go so far as to say that I liked it more than the original.  I thought that the jokes were better and the character development resonated more than the first one.  While the story basically followed a fairly by-the-numbers plot, there were a lot of inventive situations, fun visual gags, and likeable characters to get me invested in what was going on.

While the first film focused mostly on Sully (the big, blue one), this movie centered on Mike (the green one with one eye).  In the first film, he's the sidekick to Sully, but in this one, we find out that he's really the one who's responsible for Sully's successes.  I know some people think that a kid's movie is somehow a lower art form than movies for grown-ups, but I would venture that his personality is more fully-realized than some of the characters in movies aimed at people my age.

The plot involves Mike's dream of being a "scarer", a monster who frightens little children in order to harness their screams.  Why harness screams?  Because their energy powers the Monster world.  His major problem is that he's just not scary; however, he has the determination and drive to be the best in his class.  Sully, on the other hand, is really scary, but he doesn't study and has no sense for the more subtle aspects of being frightening.  He has one really ferocious growl, and that's it.

They start off not liking one another too much, but they find themselves working together to get back into the scare program when they're both dropped from it.  This involves them and a bunch of other misfits entering "The Scare Games".  Like I said, the plot feels like one you've probably seen before in other college movies, but the folks at Pixar really make it all seem fresh by taking advantage of all the possibilities that this fictional universe has to offer.  Also, I appreciated the message of how we should accept our limitations in life but not let them stop us from achieving greatness.

I found myself to be really engaged in this movie, mostly due to the characters.  Even better, my son liked it, and he did really well for his first experience.  There were only a couple of times where we had to tell him to be quiet as he yelled out at the screen.  (We're the type of crazy parents who actually try and correct behaviors like that instead of just letting our kid keep doing it.)  He was also getting antsy as we waited for the film and had to sit through all the previews, as I'm not sure he was really clear on what was happening.  But once he saw that familiar Disney logo, followed by the Pixar one, and then good old Mike from one of his favorite movies, he was really into what was going on.  This was definitely a good choice - and as a bonus, my wife's parents came along, and they seemed to really enjoy it as well.


Tony from Pandora said...

My wife took my 3 kids to this movie while I went to 'Man of Steel' Sounds like I'd have been better off going to this one...

There were 2 comments that resonated with me.

1. "I appreciated the message of how we should accept our limitations in life but not let them stop us from achieving greatness."

I think that's getting lost in the "every kid gets a trophy" mentality that's going on these days.

2. "We're the type of crazy parents who actually try and correct behaviors like that instead of just letting our kid keep doing it"

Thank you on behalf of all movie-goers! My wife and I took our 2 girls to see 'Tangled' a few years back. My younger daughter, 3 at the time, got scared at on scene near the start of the movie and wouldn't stop crying... I took her out and spent the next 1 1/2 hours in the coffee shop next door to the theater. After the movie, my wife (who stayed in the movie with my older daughter) told me some other kid was crying nearly the whole time and ruined the movie for everone...

Lance Johnson said...

1. I hear that. As a high school teacher, I can tell you that there are some parents who think that graduation is something the kids are owed, rather than something that they earn. It's a minority, but it's enough to be annoying, and the "everybody gets a trophy" idea probably doesn't help.

2. I can one-up you. A friend of mine told me about how some idiot brought their child to see the "Dawn of the Dead" remake. Poor little guy was screaming his head off until somebody finally shouted: "Get that kid out of here!"

Tony from Pandora said...

The original 'Evil Dead' I could maybe understand...