Review: Monsters University (2013)

monsters university

If my college were like MU, I’d be excited to go every day!

Screenplay By: Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, & Dan Scanlon
Directed By: Dan Scanlon

When I first left the drive-in after seeing Monsters University I thought I had seen a pretty good film. It wasn’t super duper, or very remarkable, but I had a good time with Monsters University and that was good enough for me. In the months that followed I was inundated by people proclaiming it as subpar and further proof of the decline of Pixar Animation Studios. There was such an overwhelming sentiment of derision directed towards the film that I fully expected to be disappointed in the film upon giving it a second go around.

Upon finishing said rewatch I was struck by how great Monsters University is in pretty much every aspect. It’s not just a good film, or a further sign of the decline of Pixar Animation Studios. No, like Brave before it, Monsters University is a further sign that Pixar Animation Studios is still producing top level work. I had a lot of fun watching Monsters University and this time out I found more nuggets of goodness to enjoy.

It’s almost redundant by this point, but the animation in Monsters University is tremendous. I feel that’s something we cinephiles have begun to take for granted when it comes to a film from Pixar Animation Studios. The layered and heavily detailed backgrounds, the characters that are finely drawn, and the use of shadow and light to create atmosphere are but a few of the bits of animated greatness that we no longer recognize when watching a film from Pixar Animation Studios. I’m hoping to rectify that mistake in myself and give the animators behind Monsters University the kudos they deserve for such fine work.

The first two acts of Monsters University follow a pretty tried and true narrative course. Two people come together who don’t know each other (the fact that the screenplay ignores the fact that Sully and Mike said in Monsters, Inc. that they knew each other since the second grade is a knock against the film) and they proceed to greatly annoy one another before finally becoming friends of sorts. Had Monsters University stayed on that narrative course it would have remained a pleasant, if unremarkable film. The final act offers something different and changes how the first two acts should be viewed. By making the final act be about Mike and the way he views the world, it greatly helped to make the narrative different than the standard buddies getting to know each other narrative.

Most of all, I laughed a lot watching Monsters University. The adult and the inner child I house found plenty to enjoy about the comedy style of this film. I knew I had laughed a bunch the first time I watched the movie, but I didn’t realize Monsters University offered up such a high level of humor. From character design and one-liners, to jokes based on characters occupying certain space, Monsters University had it all when it came to its comedy elements.

Unlike the majority of cinephiles I really love Monsters University. I enjoyed spending time with these characters again just as much as I enjoyed meeting the new characters. The comedy, the action, and the storytelling worked in spades during this movie. Monsters University isn’t on the same level as Monsters, Inc.. That’s not something to hold against the film however, as Monsters University deserves to be celebrated for being the great film that it is. I know most people have watched and written off Monsters University as a lesser offering from Pixar Animation Studios, but I’m one cinephile who’s willing to say that isn’t the case.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill Thompson

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4 responses to “Review: Monsters University (2013)

  1. It was alright. The original will always be a favorite of mine no matter what, though. Good review Bill.

  2. I have a place for both the original and this on my shelves.

  3. This was the first movie that I attended with my four-year-old daughter, and we had a great time. I may have been a bit distracted while watching it but still enjoyed it a lot (more than Despicable Me 2, which was okay). I agree about the animation, especially in the final scenes in the human world. Those are just remarkable, and we definitely take Pixar for granted.

  4. My daughter liked this one, but she also really liked Despicable Me 2. Truth be told she’s pretty easy to please when it comes to animated films, although I have noticed she’s not as big of a fan of the more action oriented features.

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