So, the pointless prequel to Monsters Inc., a delightful 2001 picture that touched the hearts of many, is playing in theatres for every fan of the original to see, and it honestly worries me that I find myself in a position where I have to use the phrase “It wasn’t that bad” to describe a film by friggin’ Pixar! But alas, it has come to that.
Now, okay. Monsters University wasn’t as bad as Pixar’s latest two cop-outs, Brave and Cars 2, but really, I find it almost insulting how Pixar seemingly assumes that just because we recognize characters from our childhoods we will respond favorably to whatever needless continuation they shoddily try to give to an already finished story. Please don’t tell me nostalgia makes people that goddamn gullible! I mean, one of their next movies is called Finding Dory! I couldn’t make that sound more laughable even if I had a sense of humour.
Like I said, however, I did mostly enjoy Monsters University. It was admittedly sort of nice to return to a world that’s inarguably more deserving of another film based around it than that of Cars (but still not more deserving than The Incredibles) and it was nice to see Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman) once again, this time as friends in college. The plot, of course, revolves around both of them wanting to become “scarers” and build careers around traveling through interdimensional doorways that lead into the rooms of unsuspecting children, whose terrified screams we see power the Monster city in the original film. They do, however, start off as rivals, since Mike is more of a bookworm whilst Sully is kind of a jerk jock with a big name. Does that sound different from their character traits in the first film? It’s okay, there’s plenty of character development going on.
The plot is your basic college movie. We get a team of loser underdogs trying to win a series of games to prove their worth to the rest of the school and become the scarers they want to be. Sully is one of the winners at first, but is put on Mike’s less popular team when it turns out Sully needs more brains with that brawn and Mike needs brawn with his brains. Sully’s place amongst the cool monster kids is thus taken by one Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi), who, as it turns out, was Mike’s friend at one time. How well all these backstories fit into the continuity of the first film is pretty hit-and-miss if you ask me.
The supporting cast includes Helen Mirren as the very interestingly designed and scary-looking principal of the school, Joel Murray as one of the members one Mike’s underdog team, Charlie Day as another member, Dave Foley as another, Sean Hayes as yet another, Peter Sohn as yet another and, of course, John Ratzenberger in a cameo as the Abominable Snowman. Oops, spoiler!
Wait, what? The Snowman? The one who, according to the first film, got banished into our world where our Bigfoot lore got built around him for about 90 years? You’re telling me he was still living in Monstropolis in what chronologically would most likely be some time in the 80’s? I don’t know if that’s supposed to be where the film is set since they do have a lot of modern stuff around, but still, that’s what era our world would probably be in at that point. I don’t know, perhaps I’m thinking too much.
What I’m saying, though, is that the inclusion of certain characters and elements in this film feels like George Lucas-esque fanservice, since they’re mostly just put there in hopes of making teens and young adults in the audience squee with nostalgia. I have a theory that Pixar has misunderstood their critics. Everyone loved Toy Story 3, so they thought that because that sequel worked so well they had to make a sequel to Cars as well. This idea failed, but then they figured out that the reason people loved Toy Story 3 was because it featured characters from one of their older films and that nostalgia was the key to that film’s success, and that that’s the idea they should be milking for the remainder of the decade. Hmm.
I’m not gonna act like I expected Monsters University to be another one of Pixar’s masterpieces, but I did expect it to be bad and I won’t go as far as to calling it a bad movie overall. It has characters whom you grow to like, lovely animation, clever designs, funny visual gags and some very charming jokes regarding how this creepy and disgusting monster world works, such as garish death metal music being their equivelant to “classical music”. Things like that are just as amusing here as in the first film so I won’t urge anyone to avoid this film at all costs. I’m just saying it’s an entertaining movie with some annoyances.
Before the movie we got to see Pixar’s short film The Blue Umbrella, in which Physically Based Rendering has been used to create one of the most fascinating and realistic-looking pieces of animation I’ve ever seen. That was my favourite part of the screening, to be honest.