Well, it's been a while since my last "Pixar Time", so I think it's time I talked about their most recent release: Monsters U.
I have to admit that I was one of many people who thought that this movie would suck and suck BADLY because of the bad track record of prequel films. I thought this was a way for Pixar to cash in on another one of their most beloved franchises, Monsters Inc., and we all know what happened the last time Pixar did that...
After hearing good things about it, I went to go see it and when I walked out of the theater, I was pleasantly surprised. How so?
Well, the story for starters: it's not about Sully like the last movie, it's about Mike. He goes to Monsters University to learn to become a top-scarer. While there, he meets Randall (a much nerdier guy than he was in the last movie) and Sully (the gifted boy who doesn't want to learn because he feels he has it all). However, after he fails the initial test, he decides to enter a scaring competition. If he wins, he'll become a scarer and, if he loses, he'll be expelled. The problem? He's stuck on a team that has some of the LEAST scariest monsters ever and he has to whip them into shape and learn to work with them rather than compete against them.
So, with the plot out of the way, what works for this movie? As per usual, the animation is nice and colorful, and the monsters are nicely designed. My personal favorites are the college dean and a character named "Art", who I swear to god looks like a rejected Muppet. As an added bonus, the Dean (voiced by Helen Mirren) is designed like the bad guy and animated/voiced to be the bad guy, but as the story goes on, it turns out that she really isn't. That was really a breath of fresh air to me after all those other school movies where the principal/dean is the villain.
I also like how the movie focuses on Mike and the challenges he has to go through in a nice contrast to Sully. There are plenty of jokes cracked in each challenge he faces and, while we know that he doesn't become a scarer (this being a prequel and all), it does show the impact it has on him when he realizes that he just isn't scary. It does work when it explains that, while scaring isn't his strong point, that he helped OTHERS become scary and is an expert at building strategies.
The humor, I thought, surpassed that of the original. It had more jokes and seemed to appeal to me as a college student. They do things that most people wouldn't expect in a situation and sometimes they do something with the animation (i.e. the librarian). This especially stands out in the ending, which I think is the movie's strongest point. I won't spoil too much, I'll just say "it's not what you expect" and leave it at that.
I probably would have liked to see a little more of Randall and give him a deeper reason to despise Sully (I won't give spoilers), but other than that little nitpick, I have no real problems with this movie. Unlike "Brave" and "Cars 2", which were just "okay", this is a sign that Pixar may be coming back to its senses and giving us substance and not just ideas mixed with jokes. It's a prequel that respects its original source, plays a few new cards, and has proven that Pixar has done what several other films couldn't: get a prequel correctly, and I applaud it for that.