Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Monsters University

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! MU seems like a far superior university than OFU.

Monsters University – 4 out of 5

The college experience has been greatly exaggerated in the world of cinema. Through my sexless high school years, I was under the impression that college would be a non-stop party of booze and drug consumption, never-ending sex and fun-hating Deans who will always get their comeuppance before the semester is up. However, my college years were really no different from my high school years. When I wasn’t in class, I was being rejected by women and playing a lot of Mario Party with my friends. After watching Monsters University, I wish my campus was like this one…I also wish I could exchange this degree in Communications for Scaring—it would certainly be more useful in this economy.

Wow, Sully is scarier than most, if not all, horror movies that have been released in the
last 15 years.

Man, Monsters U is way cooler than my campus was.
My college didn't have a program for water dwellers...
and even though I lack gills, I would have tried like hell
to be a part of that program.
In Pixar’s first prequel ever, Monsters University tells the tale of Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and how he ventures into college with dreams of becoming a Scarer for Monsters, Inc. In the program, he meets an arrogant Sully (John Goodman), who comes from a rich history of Scarers. The two soon enter into a rivalry that, ultimately, forces Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) to fail them both from the scare program. Seeking redemption, both monsters join the campus’ least popular fraternity; Oozma Kappa, and enter into the Scare Games—where victory means they will be welcomed back into the scare program. Now Mike and Sully must work together with their ragtag team of frat brothers; the mama’s boy Squishy (Peter Sohn), the non-traditional older student and former salesman Don (Joel Murray), the two headed magician Terri (Sean Hayes) and Terry (Dave Foley), and the Muppet-looking Art (Charlie Day), in order to get back on path towards their chosen destiny.

Unlike in the human world, a degree from a Monster College will actually get you
a decent job.

If Pixar is involved in an animated movie, the chances are nearly 100% that I will really enjoy the film (except the Cars films, never enjoyed those ones). The company is an innovator in the industry and has lead us full steam into an era where an animated movie is no longer just for kids with one or two moments that adults can find amusing. While there are examples in the past of animated films that have real deep emotion saturated into the comedy and colorful characters, Pixar perfected the art with stories that were more than just smirking animals that can talk.

There's no Axe Body Spray for these frat boy, they actually smell
better than their human equivalents.

While Monsters University isn’t as deep with its themes like Toy Story 3, Up, Wall-E or Finding Nemo, the film does provide a fun origin story to the lovable characters from Monsters, Inc.—unless you count themes like integrity, friendship and perseverance deep…and they kinda are. Well played, Pixar. You once again proved how talented you are in the writing room as you made a fun (and funny) film that teaches us important lessons without actually realizing we just got served a piping hot lesson.

Forget the Tri-Lambs, I wanna join up with Oozma Kappa!

Like any other film with Pixar, the animation is top notch and gorgeous and, like comparing the first and last Toy Story films, comparing this prequel to the original film, Monsters University looks like another leap forward in animation—especially when you look at the fur animations on Sully and other hair-covered monsters. The computer rendered hair looks and reacts to environmental stimuli more realistically than the toupee of that guy in the office (usually in accounting) that everyone works with in every job…even jobs that don’t have offices or accounting departments. He’s just always there and his name is usually Phil.

Actually, even Mike's hair is more realistic than Phil's rug.

Other than the animation, top notch voice acting is an all-out requirement to make an animated movie. Casting a person that doesn’t fit the character is the fastest way to throw me out of a movie (yes, faster than crappy animation). For example, I reviewed Epic awhile back and nearly the entire film was poorly cast and it just made the film look like an expensive PR move rather than something that was suppose to entertain me. I get it that Steven Tyler wants desperately to be back in the spotlight again and be relevant after years of making songs that stopped being worthy of remembering after achieving perfection with “Dream On” but his “I just swallowed a razor blade with a light gravel chaser” voice doesn’t fit that of a glowworm.

Now, let's get that awful movie Epic out of our minds and just enjoy this adorable
picture of a young Mike Wazowski!

This is a department where Pixar never fails in. They always have the perfect actor to fit the character—even if the actor is annoying and hopelessly clinging to a terrible stand up gimmick like Larry the Cable guy in Cars. I can’t stand his comedy or his tired character but, I have to admit, he was probably the best choice for Mater. It could have been worse though, his Rednecks of Comedy brethren Jeff Foxworthy could have taken the job and the film would have written in an entire bit of the characters saying, “You might be a lemon if…”

Now forget about that awful Jeff Foxworthy and focus on this monster librarian...who is significantly less
frightening than the fact someone actually finds Foxworthy's material funny.

Of course Randy was a nerd in college.
Billy Crystal and John Goodman are back as Mike and Sully and once again their on-screen chemistry comes off in a very noticeable way and their voice acting easily brings life to the characters’ rivalry and slowly budding friendship. We also get to see the return of Randy, the sly chameleon voiced by Steve Buscemi and other Pixar alumni like John Ratzenberger and Dave Foley. Every character is brought to life by some incredibly talented people who all seemed to be tailor-made for the part they are playing. Whether it is Alfred Molina as Professor Knight or Nathan Fillion perfectly delivering the cocky lines of the frat monster Johnny from the rival fraternity or all the small parts filled in by talent like Aubrey Plaza, Tyler Labine, John Krasinski or Bill Hader, each actor is effortlessly breathing life into these characters and adding a sense of credibility to the monsters and making them less of cartoon characters and more of actually people with personalities. One of my personal favorites from the film was Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble.

I put this picture here to show Dean Hardscrabble but I think the real attention-stealer
is that monster to the left that is clearly drunk.

The Dean is a winged, half-dragon/half-centipede monster with an icy chill to her aura and the incredibly talented Mirren made you believe it. It really is a testament to the final product that Pixar puts out there because, I’m sure, there are tons of people who look at an animated movie and think, “It’s just talking into a microphone, who cares who is doing the voices?” Like I said earlier, the right voice does go a long way to making a character believable and Pixar is not one to half-ass their characters or stories.

Imagine my surprise to discover that MU's song wasn't written by Marilyn Manson
or Alice Cooper.

Monsters University was another fun trip to the world where all the things we think hide under our beds and live in our closets call home. The movie looks good and, most importantly, it’s very funny and another great family movie from Pixar. 

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