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MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Kori Rae
Written by Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon
Directed by Dan Scanlon
Starring Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, 
Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Charlie Day, 
Frank Oz, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Nathan Fillion, 
Aubrey Plaza, Tyler Labine, John Krasinski, Bonnie Hunt, 
Bobby Moynihan, Julia Sweeney, John Ratzenberger 
Pixar / Rated G

Who would’ve known?

Mike Wazowski and James Sullivan weren’t always best pals.

Billy Crystal and John Goodman return as the voices of these two characters, except way back when…they weren’t friends!

Monsters University tells the tale of how these different and disagreeing college youngsters came to be the team that inspired screams and laughter from children (on and off screen).

Usually I find sequels and prequels of children’s movies to be intolerable, but Monsters University was great.

While seeing the first, Monsters Inc., facilitates understanding references made in MU, the film is strong all on its own. It’s heartfelt, funny and has an incredible message: embrace your unique differences that may set you apart while being your biggest strength.

Can you really go wrong opening in the young years of adorable tiny monsters with adorably high voices?

Not really. And though little Mike is sadly outcast by his classmates, he still expresses a gargantuan amount of ambition to be a great Scarer.

And it’s ADORABLE.

Mike Wazowski has big dreams of becoming a top Scarer and heads to Monsters University to learn how. We get a few scenes with initial roommate, Randy Boggs – Steve Buscemi sounds so charming as an insecure geek – and then immediately are thrust into the competitive college challenge of surviving the Scare Program. In the first class they are startled when told by Dean Hardscrabble that most will not make it through. Helen Mirren’s voice illuminates the Dean – a creepy monster who has hundreds of creepy little legs and she flies – a sort of pretty cockroach. She’s awesomely scary as the woman in charge.

Enter Jimmy Sullivan, a cocky, strut-your-stuff-I’m-cool-because-my-dad-was-famous dude. He’s a typical college bromonster who has relied on nothing but his large ego and one good roar to get by thus far.

Contrasting the small and studious Mike, these two are born rivals.

Early on both dreams are squandered when they fail the first big Scare Exam. Sully didn’t study and Mike just isn’t naturally scary. How to get back in the program?! Enter the annual Monsters University Scare Games!

The entire premise of these sort-of Olympics is that the winning team is deemed scariest bunch in school and guaranteed a spot in the Scare Program. Of course Mike enters with the sorriest fraternity compiled of an odd bunch of outcast monsters. He believes his brain will carry the team and Sully joins them solely for the chance to reenter the Scare Program.

Their fraternity/team name is Ooza Kappa (OK). “We’re okay!” “We’re Okay!” Another fun message for the kiddies – you don’t have to be in the popular crowd to be considered awesome. You can be OK and totally awesome too! The crew is a charming collection of characters. Pixar has a knack for making the geeky goof funny and lovable.

What follows as The Games begin is a delightful and comedic adventure of learning to use individual differences to make the strongest team.

I wonder though – did the kids in the theater get it? The collegiate tone was impeccable and Pixar, your animation is gorgeous. The detail of grass alone is astoundingly beautiful. But the overall college atmosphere may be lost on the children (but perhaps who cares?) From the attitudes of different stereotypical college cliques, frat parties, cool kids, and weird monsters, to the singing of the Alma Mater – it is very poignant and hilarious. Adults will definitely find the jokes funny but the children may just see bright monsters who occasionally trip and fall and do something silly with goo.
Pixar isn’t being subtle in Monsters University and was almost screaming, “We know you had to take your kids! We know the other kids in the theater won’t shut up!! So here’s a film with jokes that pretty much only you will appreciate. PLEASE enjoy!!!”

And I did.

I really did, even through the never-ending soundtrack of chit-chat, whining and crying from my fellow viewers.

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