‘Monsters University’: Classy, if not classic
MANILA, Philippines - That “Monsters University” (“MU”), Pixar Animation Studios’ latest full-length feature will be a box-office hit is a no-brainer, given both Pixar’s reliable track record and their every movie’s all-ages accessibility. But a question lurks among those who recognize Pixar’s storytelling heft and emotional depth amid all its remarkable digital wizardry: Is “MU” up there with “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” “Up” and “Ratatouille”?
“Monsters, Inc.” itself was a swell chestnut from 2001, a fairly wacky and imaginative take on the childhood notion of monsters under the bed that also made a vivid case for parenthood’s being an adventure in its own right.
Watch the trailer here:
That “Monsters University” is a prequel to that flick from12 years ago already saddles it with some critical weight. Not a few barbed (American) tongues have wagged about “MU’s” being less of a cinematic necessity and more of a fattener for the Pixar bottom line.
In my view, “MU” may lack the transcendental heights attained by what are arguably the studio’s classics, yet it is not wanting in entertainment value. As a frequent acronym in the movie puts it, “MU” is essentially “OK” — not exactly a good thing given Pixar’s standards but still far from a deplorable time at the theater. Long after the film’s local run, many of us could even find ourselves stumbling unto it on cable TV and parking our butts on the sofa to relive the whole thing.
It has disposable moments of recycled sight gags, such as an interminable chase involving a wayward pig and a face-off involving speeded-up treadmills. It also tends to conjure recognizable plot points of other movies, including “Animal House,” “Revenge of the Nerds” (which had also featured “MU” star John Goodman!) and “The Hunger Games” — films that, admittedly, have yet to be seen by today’s 7-year-olds.
And as pointed out elsewhere online, “MU” is largely a boys-will-be-boys affair: the lead characters are male, with just a few female characters pegged as supporting players.
That said, “MU” is worth checking out. Why so? Let me count 5 ways.
5. It can be fun, wit and creativity-wise
Like its predecessor, “MU” is more a comedy than a drama, rife with good-natured humor and not as leavened with sentiment or drama as “Monsters, Inc.” It’s also commendable that “MU’s” creators did not rest on “MI’s” laurels, avoiding the east route of, say, revisiting the latter’s “Scare Floor” setting more than necessary.
Plus, one of the “MU’s” highlights is a riotous library scene, a little story in its own right whose denouement is exemplary of Pixar’s storytelling smarts.
4. Its cast might not do any live-action movies together
“MU” lead stars Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprise their “Monsters, Inc.” roles, and it is to the actors’ credit that they sound convincing as college kids even if both are in their 60s. Moreover, Crystal and Goodman have yet to appear jointly in a live-action movie (though both did appear, in minor roles, in “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”) and what a treat it would be if these “Monsters” movies paved the way for their own, say, “The Bucket List” type of flick.
In addition, the scenes featuring Crystal’s Mike Wazowski and Helen Mirren’s draconian Dean Hardscrabble are quite the thrill: the world of animation has at least made their somewhat unlikely cinematic pairing a reality.
3. There’s a nifty twist
At one point halfway through, “MU” comes off as a standard-issue, triumph-of-the-underdog tale…until cowriter-director Dan Scanlon and company pull the virtual rug from under the viewers. They deliver a rather delightful climax that, for the first time in the movie, puts the focus squarely on the teamup of Wazowski and Goodman’s Sulley.
2. Three words: “The Blue Umbrella”
"MU” is preceded (only in cinemas) by “The Blue Umbrella” (not to be confused with a 2005 Indian film based on a 1980 Indian novel), a short film written and directed by Saschka Unseld. (He and Scanlon have long been in Pixar but are debuting as directors just now.) And what a little treat it is, taking the studio’s knack for anthropomorphism to such photorealistic heights.
The story may be a simple enough tale that is even reminiscent of another Disney-sanctioned short, “Paperman,” but “Umbrella” deserves attention for two reasons: it stresses that inanimate objects have an unexamined life all their own and it is a celluloid affirmation of the Paulo Coelho quote about the universe conspiring to help achieve what one wants.
1. It sneaks in a few subliminal points
Count on Pixar to somehow tuck in a compelling point or two that can be deemed as lessons for young viewers or reminders for us older ones. “MU” has helpings of it here and there, such as the value of hard work over a prestigious lineage, of never judging others through first impressions and of how impossibilities can be, if not surpassed, outsmarted.
And, coincidentally or not, that last point actually is suggested by “MU” as a subtle nod to Pixar’s early savior, Steve Jobs.
It’s as if, in conclusion, “Monsters University” is the Pixar folks’ way of singing “I wouldn’t have nothin’ if I didn’t have you” to its late boss — the very reason why we ever get to see Pixar flicks in the first place. - Rappler.com
‘Monsters University,’ rated G by the MTRCB, is now showing in 2D and 3D across the Philippines.