Thursday, June 27, 2013

Pixar Gives It The Ol' College Try and Succeeds: Our Review of "Monsters University" (2013)


Directed By: Dan Scanlon 

Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi

Rating: G

Run Time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Synopsis: During a field-trip to the Monsters, Inc. factory, a young Mike Wazowski is inspired to go to Monsters University to learn to become a Scarer. When Mike finally arrives to his dream school, he immediately bumps heads with a fellow Scaring major named James Sullivan, who comes from a family of scarers, whereas Mike has to work hard at it. When their feud draws the ire of Dean Hardscrabble (Mirren), who boots them from the School of Scaring, Mike and Sulley must team up and join the outcast fraternity Oozma Kappa to take part in the Scaring Games with hopes of winning...and getting back into the school they so desperately want to be in.

REVIEW

Andrew: Hello readers! We’ve been a little quiet lately on the blog and for that we apologize, but it’s not that we haven’t been seeing movies! Both Sarah and I have been pretty busy at work this week, what with Sarah working at not one but two Ann Taylor stores at the moment, and I’ve been working overtime to prepare for tonight’s NBA Draft on ESPN. (In case you want to know, if you watch the draft tonight at 7pm, all the highlight packages for players from Big Ten and Big East schools were my handiwork.)

All that said, Sarah and I did hit up the local AMC last Friday night to catch the latest Disney/Pixar film, Monsters University, the prequel to 2001’s popular Monsters, Inc.

Sarah: It’s been a long time since Monsters, Inc. came out! What took them so long?

A: It’s definitely been a long time. For Monsters University, Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprise their voice-acting roles as Mike Wazowski and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan. As a prequel the new film details how Mike and Sulley came to meet at college and how they became the “Scarers” that they became.

So Sarah, you’re actually a bigger fan of Monsters, Inc. than I am, so I want to get your take on this one first.

S: I am a big fan of Monsters, Inc. It was the very first movie that my parents and I took my little sister to see in theatres, so it was big moment in her life and in mine! It was her first movie! Her introduction to the wonderful world of movies! So that one holds a soft spot in my heart.

I also think Monsters, Inc. is hilarious, so I was excited to see Monsters University, and it did not disappoint. It fell right in line with the original. It just felt so natural as a beginning to what we know of the classic Pixar movie, which was one of the first ones and that was so new and amazing with every single hair on Sulley looking realistic.

So this one looks very much in line with the older movie. It didn’t look newer than the original to me, if that makes any sense.

A: I would actually disagree with you a little bit on that point.

S: Really?

A: I thought there were things like the backgrounds of the college and the actual settings looked amazing

S: Yeah, I guess it’s been a while since the original came out…

A: Like we said, if you count when they started making Monsters, Inc. it’s probably been about fifteen years between the films, so technology and Pixar’s animation has come a long way. They’ve kept the same look as the first film, but it’s pretty obvious that they can make things look better.

S: And I guess that’s what I mean – the characters look exactly the same…

A: The world they live in looks very similar, just better. So I agree with you on that, then. What did you think of Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprising their roles so much later in their careers and lives, yet their characters are supposed to be younger?

S: I thought they were perfect. I thought they did an amazing job and I think their voices really stayed with them. I didn’t feel like they sounded older, and maybe it was because of the setting they were in. We don’t see the actor behind the voice on-screen. We know what they look like now, but that doesn’t deter from the fact that their voices are very much the same and they have kept their craft and their instrument tuned very well. They had to know they might do another one down the line.

John Goodman and Billy Crystal return as the voices of James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowksi
in Monsters University, where they meet for the first time at college

I loved them. Not only did Billy Crystal and John Goodman return, but Steve Buscemi returned voicing Randall! He doesn’t have a ton of lines in the movie but it’s still very obviously Steve Buscemi, it’s definitely Randall. So I thought the film did a great job utilizing the returning actors. And they’ve brought back a couple other characters in little cameo roles, which we won’t give away, but can probably be guessed.

A: Cameos from characters that you would hope might make an appearance in this film.

S: Ones that you make sense and helped bring this story full-circle with the original. I was a little iffy when I found out that they were coming out with a prequel, but now that I’ve seen it this was definitely the way to go. It was so much fun for me.

It’s a little lighter-hearted than the original’s storyline, because it didn’t involve kidnapping a human child and trying to get her home, but it was also scarier at the same time, if that makes sense. The actual focus on the monsters was bigger, the focus was a little different this time around. So I felt like they definitely made their monsters a little scarier this time around! Some of them can be pretty terrifying!

A: Some of the kids that were in the theatre we saw this in might have trouble sleeping for a while.

S: Like how about that librarian, huh?!

A: I was actually thinking more along the lines of the “Pinks” sorority girls.

S: Oh yeah! The Pinks were scary, too! Yeah, so the monsters were definitely brought up a notch this time around.

What did you think of the new characters and voice actors? Like the Dean of the School of Scaring, Mike and Sulley’s fraternity brothers…

A: That’s something I definitely wanted to touch on because I thought the supporting cast was really, really good! I liked that Helen Mirren played the dean, Dean Hardscrabble…

S: She was the perfect choice for it.

A: She was the perfect voice for it, but it was one of those examples of…I appreciate it when you can’t really tell or you don’t overtly think about it’s a particular actor’s voice for a character. I felt like Mirren playing Dean Hardscrabble was one of those cases. I mean, you can tell it’s her, but it just feels right for the character so you don’t think twice about it. The nailed it there.

Likewise, Nathan Fillion voicing Johnny, the leader of the Roar Omega Roar fraternity, I thought he was perfect for him. I was able to place him immediately with my ear, but again, within the world of the movie he just felt right.

That said, with the other members of Oozma Kappa, I couldn’t place their voices at all and I thought that was great! Turns out all of the Oozma Kappa guys are voiced by famous actors!

Helen Mirren voices Dean Hardscrabble, the Dean of the School of Scaring and one of the most
feared Scarers to ever work at Monsters, Inc.

S: I didn’t even know who they were.

A: Turns out that the hairy one with the two huge legs, I wanna say his name was Art? He’s voiced by Charlie Day from Horrible Bosses and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

S: No way!!!

A: Sean Hayes was one-half of the two-headed monster, Terry & Terri…

S: From Will & Grace???

A: Yup.

S: What?! I love that show! I never would’ve guessed he was one of the voices!

S: So just, some of these guys were great for their roles because I didn’t realize it was them and they just fit perfectly in the movie. So the voice-acting in this film is very, very well-done. It especially made me happy that John Krasinski has a small role early on in the film as a very influential character on a young Mike Wazowski. So again, it felt good. I thought they knocked it out of the park.

S: Yes, definitely.

A: I asked you about Mike and Sulley because, to me, they did sound a little bit older…

S: Really?

A: At least Mike did, because Billy Crystal has to kind of make a voice…

S: Well and Crystal has such a unique voice that it probably is easier to tell its age because it’s so different.

A: Because with Goodman doing Sulley, that’s pretty much just Goodman’s normal voice. Crystal…he kinda has to do something to his voice and it just sounds a little different here, but not to a detriment. It’s just like, if you watch the movies back-to-back, you would be able to tell there’s a bit of a difference. It still worked, they obviously had to bring them back, they couldn’t have done this movie without them.

S: Correct.

A: What did you think of the storyline?

S: Going back to Mike and Sulley, what I love about them together is that they filmed every scene together. Crystal and Goodman learned from the first film and they recorded their lines together in the same studio, because that’s how they can act. It’s best to do it together with other people.

I think that’s so cool because it forms such an easy flow with the characters because they have actual chemistry on screen. Which I think a lot of movies lose when people record their lines separately.

A: Do we know for a fact they recorded their lines together?

S: Yeah, Billy Crystal said so when he was on Good Morning America to promote the movie. So, it’s really cool that they do that. I like that.

To answer your question, I loved the story because it takes you to college and I loved the Scare Games. I love when characters have to do things like that. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is my favorite Potter story because I like the obstacles and challenges they have to get through. It’s very similar to that.

A: It’s not a cliché, per se, but it’s an old movie trope of college movies to have characters do things like this. We’ve seen it before in films like Revenge of the Nerds and Old School

S: Yes! It’s a perfect example of a college movie like that, where the underdogs are fighting to just stay around. I thought it was perfect. It was simple, you kinda knew how it was going to go, but it’s a kids movie!

A: But – and I want to make a point of this – while there were a lot of times where it was predictable or you knew where it was going to go because it follows familiar notes, I will give Monsters University credit that it went someplace I was not expecting it to. There’s a point where I thought it was the climactic moment of the movie, then it turned out not to be and the film proceeded to go in a different direction than what I had expected. And I thought that thoroughly improved the movie.

S: So did I, because it was starting to slow down a little bit and I was wondering where they would take it.

A: A lot of the movie seems cliché or predictable, but then all of a sudden it became unpredictable and it went into a very, very good place that kind of built the characters a little more.

S: It took the characters and shaped them into more of the characters that we already knew going into the film. It was very cool.

A: So I liked that. Is this the best picture Pixar has ever made? No.

S: No, but it’s fun.

A: It’s also much better, in my mind, than Brave, much better than Cars 2, I’d even put it above Cars personally.

S: Well…

A: I’m just saying I would. It was really good.

S: It was good, it was fun, it was a Disney/Pixar movie that wasn’t trying to make a statement. It was just pure silliness. It’s Monsters! It’s so fun. I think it’s the first great family blockbuster movie the summer that kids of all ages can see. It was perfect for that.

A: I will say though, it really, really makes me…..I wish Pixar would just make a fricking sequel to The Incredibles already. They made a Monsters, Inc. prequel that’s doing gangbusters, they’re making a Finding Nemo sequel now…just give me a gosh darn Incredibles sequel.

S: Good things come to those who wait, my dear.

A: Anyways…final thoughts on Monsters University?

S: Definitely see it in theatres. We didn’t see it in 3D, but I can see how this might be a good one to see in 3D.

A: I actually wouldn’t mind coming back and seeing it in 3D because it looks great. What you mentioned about Sulley’s hair earlier? I’d love to see that texture in 3D.

S: Definitely. I’m not sure this is one we’ll one someday, we don’t own the first one, though maybe someday we’ll get them both as a package deal.

A: At a minimum you definitely want a stuffed animal of Little Mike Wazowski.

S: Or of Squishy. He was so (makes indistinguishable cutesy noises)…

(Individual Scores - S: 4.5/5  A: 3.5/5)


Photo Courtesies: nerdist.com, filmweb.plnerdist.com

2 comments:

  1. Very Nice review. You got me interested in seeing this, but Im still going to hold off until I can see it for less then five bucks at the theatre

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