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Monsters University

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Scott Roberts
Monsters University
on Jul 4, 2013 at 6:04:26 pm







Premise: Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc are back, but from before, when they went to college together. Long story short, it was better than Brave.


Pros:

-I actually like the message this film has. I don't know if it's necessarily thrilling for an audience of children, but it's the realistic approach. Basically, Mike spends the entire movie gradually learning that he's never going to be the superstar scarer that he's dreamed of being his entire life, and of course (because we know what he does in the first film), he ends up taking the less glamorous yet still rewarding job he has in Monsters Inc in the long run. You can dream all you want, but reality has to check in at some point. Why not hit kids early with this message? We live in a time when all kids have to treated as though their all "special." I saw this change happen when I was in elementary school. In first through fourth grade, when I participated in the Pinewood Derby (racing custom wooden cars on a track, if you're unfamiliar), and every year they would give out trophies for racing, and also for design. I would always do well in the design categories, and would take home second or third place every year. But I wanted the huge first place trophy. So I totally went all out and made an awesome chattering tooth dentist themed car for fifth grade, and sure enough I placed first place in design. BUT... apparently all the kids who didn't work hard enough, or design good enough cars, were crying every year because they couldn't EARN trophies, and they just wanted to GET trophies, and feel special for accomplishing nothing. So in fifth grade, the year I EARNED a huge first place trophy, they decided to give the small same-sized trophy to EVERYONE, even kids who sucked and didn't accomplish anything. They were rewarded and treated special just because they cried about it. So my lone first place trophy was the same size as the dumb kid who came in last place in every category, just so he could feel better about himself. Meanwhile, me, the guy who used his creativity to win first place, was rewarded with lesser spoils. BITTER MUCH, SCOTT? Maybe if these under-achieving losers actually WANTED to get the trophies, they'd work harder and harder, and learn lessons about themselves in the process, and spend the rest of their lives working harder? Orrrrrr maybe they'd continue to cry about not ever getting trophies, and never do anything but whine about it, and sink into the vacuum of mediocrity they were destined for in the first place? Wait, weren't we talking about Monsters University? Oh yeah, well the movie taught a nice lesson that not everyone can be Michael Jordan, but they can certainly be Michael Jordan's accountant, and still make a great, fulfilling life for themselves doing so. Not quite "the world needs janitors" as a message, because the movie still encourages learning and working hard, but it's more like "the world needs engineers". Which is a nice reality check. Kids can, and should, still try to be whatever they want, but we shouldn't sugar coat their lives anymore about making them believe that EVERYONE is special. I knew quite a few morons growing up who went home with a little trophy that day.

-Whoa, I didn't expect this review to be so dark and preachy. On a lighter note, all of the character designs were fun and cute. The animation was top notch, as expected. It's a very colorful movie and a delight to watch on a visual level.

-The voice acting is also as good as ever. Billy Crystal and John Goodman are awesome in this. Lots of great cameos throughout. I also enjoy the meteoric rise of Charlie Day in more and more films. His next project is Pacific Rim.

-Pretty spot on spoof of 1980s college films, most notably Revenge of the Nerds. As I was watching it I noticed the adults were laughing more than the kids throughout this thing.

-Sheri's music choice while waiting in the car made me laugh a ton.

-I think I was entertained in every single scene. It's kind of just fun to watch the skewed world if the monsters. Yet it's all still grounded in a comical reality. Probably best exemplified by the boring class that teaches students how to design scream canisters. Again, the world needs canister designers.

-Good pacing.

-I liked that the ending went the way it did. They certainly didn't hand out trophies to every student just for trying.



Cons:

-The story is kind of just reduced to a competition. Not quite as whimsical as the first film, but at least it delivers the jokes consistently.

-Should have gotten Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds to voice the monster that looked and acted exactly like Ogre. MISSED OPPORTUNITY. NEEEEEERRRRRRRRRDS.

-The ending to the first one is fantastic, and this one maybe tries a little too hard to do the same emotion and fails, despite the commendable spirit. So I liked the ending, but didn't. I hope you've enjoyed reading my wishy washy garbage review!



Final Thoughts: I don't think it had as good a story as Monsters Inc, or the same level of emotion, but I thought Monsters University was a lot funnier. It's hard to say whether it's *better* than Monsters Inc... It probably isn't. But I didn't really grow up with the first one and saw it for the first time within the last 2 years, so I'd probably rather watch Monsters University again if given the choice. Better jokes, just sayin'.

8.5 out of 10


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Mark Suszko
Re: Monsters University
on Jul 4, 2013 at 7:56:28 pm

We just saw it last night. I too liked the subtle references to other college movies, including the guitar destruction scene from Animal House....

The kids and I "reviewed" it in the car, while driving home. The themes they came away with were about the power of emotions, both of fear and hate, versus love and joy/humor. And they really responded to the themes of celebrating individuality and not seeking conformity and belonging for the wrong reasons, and the themes of teamwork.

The Sully character voiced by Goodman undergoes quite a journey here, from callow, over-entitled, self-absorbed jerk with a famous family name, natural talent but no ambition to perfection, and secret anxieties ... to a real team player and the more lovable character he is in Monster, Inc.

I slightly disagree with the message Scott got out of the film. Where Scott sees a refreshing honesty in telling people that not everyone achieves their dream, we DO see this pair get to their dream jobs, but via a more complicated and longer, (but nevertheless valid) route, showing that determination, patience, and will to win against any obstacles, can make up for a lot of other deficits. To put it in pinewood derby terms, these characters, thru their journey, ended up making more meaningful trophies of their own, trophies they earned the hard way.

Over in the business and marketing forum, there's a longstanding argument about whether a young person wanting to enter our field should do so by a traditional liberal arts university education, via a tech program, or the auto-didactic method of apprenticeship and learning it "on the streets" by doing it. Each approach in that argument has their defenders and supporters and exemplars of successful people. I liked how that also seems to come thru in Monsters U. There's more than one school that teaches scaring, and more than one company that generates scare-based power. There's more than one route to a protagonist's ultimate self-actualization, and what matters most is how committed that protagonist is to following thru on their vision.

I also got a lot of laughs out of Murray's portrayal of the oldest Ooozma-Kappa member, with his Chicago accent and mannerisms. His journey in the film offers parents a message of hope that nobody is too old to re-invent themselves.

This movie didn't give me the same kind of emotional jolt as the ending two words in the first film, which still make me tear up every damn time... but Monsters U. is a solid prequel that connects the characters you know, with the raw material they used to be, thru the formative experiences that define their eventual character... and gives you insights into yourself as well as the characters on screen. And I think it creates an excellent springboard for parents and their kids to talk about a lot of important issues, in an entertaining framework. I'd give it an "A".


BTW, the opening short about the Blue Umbrella was VERY entertaining as well as being an impressive tech demo of photorealistic animation of inanimate objects, in very organic-seeming environments. Amusing, emotional, and a technical tour-de-force; which is pretty much everything Pixar is.

That said, saw the trailer for the CARS-sequel about airplanes, starring an un-credited Dane Cook. THIS one might be the one that finally breaks the chain of run-away hits by Pixar.


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Jeff Hinkle
Re: Monsters University
on Jul 5, 2013 at 1:52:51 pm

[Mark Suszko] "That said, saw the trailer for the CARS-sequel about airplanes, starring an un-credited Dane Cook. THIS one might be the one that finally breaks the chain of run-away hits by Pixar."

Ah, but Planes is not by Pixar. Yes, it's based on the Pixar Cars property, but Pixar studios are not doing the work. It's all from Disney's animation studios so it shouldn't derail Pixar's track record.

---
It is easier to destroy than to create.
More fun, too.


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Stephen Smith
Re: Monsters University
on Jul 8, 2013 at 2:58:17 pm

I was very nervous about Monsters University. I felt the concept seemed strange. I was very happy that it turned out great. It was a lot of fun to watch and I like how they tied some of the characters from Monsters Inc. into the film.

speaking of trophies. You should watch this:






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