FILM REVIEW: Monsters University

July 28, 2013 1:06 pm


Back in 2001, Pixar worked their magic on Monsters Inc. and delivered a cute, thought-provoking, hilarious film which has since remained one of the most beloved family films ever. Following its success and worldwide fame, a sequel had been rumored. However, Pixar go down a different route and instead produced a prequel. Prior to Monsters University’s release, Pixar had been slowly slipping from their once ingenious status. As a result of this Monsters University was an exercise for them to apply memory of cinematic experience and for many, to relive childhoods. Therefore, in order for Pixar to find their wake-up call and to fit in the pieces that will satisfy audiences, Monsters University had mountains to climb. Nevertheless, most of it paid off and it has consequently become Pixar’s freshest feature since Toy Story 3.

The idea of Pixar producing a prequel was unexpected, and, quite frankly, a back-story explanation from Monsters Inc. was not essential. In fact, it was the opposite as the execution of the film’s ending desired an aftermath and left an unanswered question. Pixar could have done an entirely original film if they wanted to but they were going downhill and turned to one of their triumphs for an idea. However, Pixar are moving backwards with Monsters University, narrative-wise, to relive Pixar’s monster world and because it is about college students, for many to feel young again. So although Monsters University may have been an initially pointless project, it’s execution, in particular the story and characters, have sealed its relevance and it delivered meaningful messages about self-discovery, teamwork, friendship and living your dreams.

The most creative and surprising aspect of Monsters University was its originality. Considering that the film serves as a prequel and features specific reprising characters, Pixar successfully managed to embark us back into the familiar world but also introduce us to something new. The story is practically a teen-comedy and Monsters University beautifully executes it at a different angle. Even the teen-like humour worked in which adults and kids can understand. However, it is in that characteristic where Monsters University was slightly disappointing. Its predecessor is arguably the funniest film Pixar have ever done but this prequel lacked those similar laugh-out-loud gags when they were expected. In fact, that is where Pixar are still slipping and need to reinvent on again. Meanwhile, the animated effects just keep getting better with Pixar and as expected, Monsters University was a visual treat.

monsters universityIn Monsters Inc, Mike and Sulley were best friends and were as close as brothers but Monsters University explains and reveals how they became so. Their presence in Monsters Inc brought so much warmth and it was absolutely wonderful to see them back in this prequel. With Sulley serving as the protagonist and central character in the original film, this time we mainly focus on Mike and his quest to become a top Scarer. Mike as a character defines a young university student’s ambitions and the obstacles that lie ahead. Many of Monsters University’s audience are youngsters, they can experience others in a different world and those who watched Monsters Inc as a child as a child will be in a similar field to Mike and Sulley at university. Billy Crystal’s portrayal of Mike in Monsters Inc was one of the best voice-acting performances but it was great to see him and John Goodman back together. On a similar note, Steve Buscemi, John Ratzenberger and Bob Peterson reprise their supporting roles and make their characters known too.

While we get to see familiar faces again, Monsters University introduces a whole variety of new colourful characters that enlightened the film and broadened the monster world even further. Even these characters were categorized into types of teenagers, which include Mike and Sulley’s geeky student colleagues – the Oozma Kappa group, their tough opponents the Roar Omega Roar students and Dean Abigail Harscrabble, the headmistress of Monsters University – a character brilliantly voiced by Helen Mirren and portrayed as a similar antagonist to Ratatouille’s Anton Ego.

Although Monsters University is not the follow-up that we were initially expecting prior production, it has become the film that Pixar have needed in order for them to begin the restoration of their enchanting projects. While the film may lack humour and partially narrative pacing, there has not been a Pixar film since Toy Story 3 with more creativity, originality and heart. It is a sign of hope that they can go back to their masterful stage. Finally, if there is anything that Monsters University has taught, it is that animated follow-ups do genuinely work as long as there are both newly original and predecessor elements included. The real Pixar are coming back!

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