Saturday, June 22, 2013

Monsters University Review

Back in 1995, Pixar Animation Studios, having teamed up with Disney, revolutionized that animation world by making Toy Story, the world's first feature length computer animated movie. That movie was a huge success and after that Dreamworks quickly jumped into the game with Antz in 1998. A month later Pixar released A Bug's Life and followed with Toy Story 2 the next year in 1999. Ever since that, the industry has sky-rocketed and now there has been around 100 movies made by computer generated imagery (CGI). In 2013 alone there has now been four such animated movies made with six more on the schedule. Despite all this, Pixar has managed to remain king of the computer animated movie. Starting in 2001 with Monsters Inc, Pixar produced eight straight movies that earned at least $200M in the US box office. Their previous three, Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and Toy Story 2, would also be in this range if we adjust for ticket price inflation. This impressive streak ended when Cars 2 fell just short of this mark. Brave put them back on track with this streak, but not by much. Adjusted for inflation, Cars 2 is Pixar's lowest grossing movie and Brave is its second lowest. Most of this success is not just because Pixar was revolutionized the animated movie, but also because their movies have been praised by both critic and general audience alike. The 13 Pixar movies have been nominated for a grand total of 42 Academy Awards, winning 12 of those. Since the advent of the Best Animated Feature at the Oscars in 2001, 7 out of 10 of Pixar's movies have won the award. Monsters Inc and Cars were both nominated for the award, but lost out to Shrek and Happy Feet respectively. Cars 2, in addition to being Pixar's lowest attended movie was also the first Pixar movie to not be nominated. Brave, despite getting sub-par reviews in Pixar's standards, did manage to somehow pull the upset over Wreck-It Ralph and win the award.

Now that I have given you a history lesson, let me dive into Pixar's 14th animated movie, Monsters University, which was just barely released this weekend. Why did I spend so much time giving you that history? Well, first off I think it's a really interesting history, but more importantly I did it to show you why I hold Pixar to a really high standard when it comes to movies. In addition to this strong history of success, on a personal level I have loved every Pixar movie from 1995's Toy Story all the way to 2010's Toy Story 3, the latter being my favorite Pixar movie. Cars 2 in 2011 I thought was a disaster. Last year's Brave I actually did enjoy, but at the same time I thought it was extremely predictable and not nearly as good as Pixar's other movies, so for me I have been let down twice in a row by Pixar and now I'm waiting for Pixar to return to it's excellent history and impress me. However, ever since Monsters University has been announced I've been nervous that it would become the third disappointment in a row. Was that true? Well, almost. A solid third act in the movie helped save it from disaster and I would thus put it ahead of Cars 2 and Brave, but a poor first two acts makes it so that it doesn't quite redeem Pixar in my mind from this slump they've been in.

My problems with Monsters University? Well, they ultimately stem from the fact that I don't think this was necessary. Yes, I love Monsters Inc. It would probably be in my list of top five favorite Pixar movies (I only say probably because that would be a hard list for me to create). But it is the type of movie that is a stand alone movie. A sequel doesn't make sense for it and neither does a prequel. Pixar has been excellent with making original movies as that is all they did for ten years, but with the huge success of Toy Story 3 I felt they decided they needed to start making second movies from all their original movies. Outside their Toy Story trilogy, Monsters Inc and Finding Nemo are their two most popular movies and that is where they decided to go in making second movies. This to me is the Dreamworks approach and while many times it can work out, other times it fails miserably. Monsters University I felt was one of those times where it wasn't going to work out. In addition to being nervous that it was happening, none of the trailers ever proved me wrong. They didn't make me laugh at all and while they made the movie look fun for the kids, it seemed boring and predictable for adults.

Was this what I thought it was? For the majority of the movie it was. Yes it did seem very forced. The premise of the movie is that Mike and Sully are just starting out as students at Monsters University, both studying to become scarers. Mike is the type of student that takes things super seriously. No fun. No parties. Just reading and living by the textbooks, eating and breathing school work. Sully is the exact opposite. His father was a scarer and thus he believes he has natural talent and doesn't need to put any effort into things at all. The opposite personalities of the two immediate clash and thus present several different problems, of which I won't dive into because that would be giving away too much story. It is obvious here that the two have never met before this, which I think does work for the purposes of the story. I do have a minor issue with it, though, because towards the beginning of Monster's Inc, Mike light-heartedly accuses Sully of having been jealous of his good looks since the fourth grade. The movie doesn't dive into this any further, but you get the impression that Mike and Sully have been best friends since they were both really little and thus having them being complete strangers in the beginning of Monsters University felt wrong to me. Nevertheless, if you overlook that and keep going, you dive into the main conflict of them movie and to me at this point it felt a lot like Brave. Brave was a fun, goofy movie that seemed really predictable at first. Once you got to the main conflict, you had a feeling of exactly how it was going to end and you won't be wrong, thus despite it being fun and goofy, it leaves you a little empty in the end. This was how Monsters University was for me as I was watching it. The only difference at this point was that, while a lot of people in the theater were laughing throughout the whole movie, I felt like a grinch because I wasn't laughing. I thought there were many clever parts and I chuckled a few times, but I wasn't laughing in the way Monsters Inc made me laugh. Also giving another Brave comparison, in the movie Brave despite it being predictable it does have a few great lessons that it teaches and the same thing goes with Monsters University. It teaches you great lessons about college life, which I thought were really cool, especially when it dove into the fact that you can be whatever you want in life if you just put some effort into it, so I do give it kudos for that.

When you get to the end of the movie, even though I thought it was going to continue the Brave comparison, it actually threw me a curveball. No, I will not give anything away, but there is a point in the movie where you feel like it is going to end, and end really predictably at that. But it does neither. It keeps going for like another half an hour with an ending that is actually super impressive. At this point it actually felt like Monsters Inc for the very first time. It was emotional. It was clever. And there were a few times in the end where I actually had a good laugh like I do when watching Monsters Inc. I ended up walking out of the theater with a good, positive feeling about what I just watched.

Wrapping this review up, if you are a parent with young kids this is a movie I would highly recommend. Despite concerns that I had with the beginning, your kids will be in love with this movie from start to end, so take them to see it. If you are an adult without kids, I would actually recommend you give this a chance. Yes it was a tale of two movies for me. Acts 1 and 2 would probably get a rating of 5 out of 10 from me, but act 3 would get a 9 out of 10 for me, so in giving it an official score, I will go in between and give it a 7 out of 10. No, it's not one of Pixar's best and if I were to rank all the pixar movies, this would probably be in the bottom three, but that speaks more to the excellency of all their other movies and less on this one because like I said, I left with a positive feeling about the movie.

P.S.- There is a scene at the end of the credits, so stick around. There is also a short film at the beginning called The Blue Umbrella and it is pretty good.

1 comment:

  1. The paper can be helps to meet the challenge in writing. The outline of the custom essay writing service can be providing the good attraction from the students.