Sunday, June 23, 2013


While it may not be a return to form for Pixar, "Monsters University" is still immensely enjoyable and probably among the best animated offerings we'll see this year, a bright a colorful frolic that packs enough creative punch this animated studio is known for. As a prequel to 2001's "Monsters Inc.," it doesn't brim with the incomparable originality of the first, but these filmmakers also obviously don't want to rest on their laurels.

Directed by Dan Scanlon who wrote "Cars" and from a screenplay by Pete Doctor and Andrew Stanton, the premise is refreshingly simple. A young Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) goes on a field trip to Monsters Inc. and ever since dreams to attend Monsters University to become a scarer. Once on campus, Mike meets his roommate Randy (Steve Buscemi), a geek who wants to get in with the cool crowd -- one of the movie's many winks to the original. Mike is a geek who doesn't mind remaining a geek and spends the entire semester skipping out on parties to study.

The bookworm Mike butts heads with a young, cocky Sully (John Goodman) who uses his family name, Sullivan, on the intention of sliding through school and becoming a scarer on his own merit, no studying required. When confronted with an ultimatum by the severe-looking Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), Mike and Sully are forced to join the same fraternity to compete in the university-hosted Scare Games. Their frat, however, is the opposite of Roar Omega Roar, the popular kids on campus. Oozma Kappa is where Mike and Sully meet fellow teammates Squishy (Peter Sohn), Don (Joel Murray), Terri (Sean Hayes) and Art (Charlie Day). As a bunch of cuddly monsters, these characters and the voice acting are quite funny.

What's added fun about "Monsters University" is that it truly does capture college life, which is cleverly tongue-in-cheek for a kids' movie. The games themselves, a trial of challenges from don't wake the parents to don't scare the teenager, are a whole lot of fun. The movie has a zippy, high energy with pastel hues bouncing together and photo realistic textures making a constant delight for the senses. And in classic Pixar tradition, there's a final hook in the story that might even put a lump in your throat. Pixar fans, have no fear: this is no "Cars 2."

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