movies: monsters university

monsters university - school never looked this scary
Wow... it's been a long time since my last movie review... almost two months in fact.

Before I dive straight in to my thoughts on Monsters University, I have to stop and say a few things about the short that preceded it, The Blue Umbrella. A little like Paperman which was the short before Wreck It Ralph,The Blue Umbrella is a masterpiece not only in animation but also in the art of wordless storytelling.

I think I felt every possible emotion during the six minute short... and I'm not going to lie, I shed a tear or two, mostly due to the incredible music by Jon Brion. And it's such a simple, relateable story of two umbrellas in a city.

It's also possibly one of the most photo-realistic Pixar shorts to date. If it hadn't been for one of two small moments I could almost have believe that it was live action with a layer of CG over the top... but no, the whole thing is CG which is absolutely amazing.

If it doesn't win Best Animated Short at next year's Oscars then I don't know what's wrong with the world.

But that brings us to the main feature, Monsters University.

I read part of a review earlier in the week which mentioned that unlike the first movie, Monsters Inc, which was incredibly universal in it's themes, the sequel/prequel is essentially American in it's basic story. As far as I'm aware, no other country in the world has the same kind of university experience as the US, and this story is set deep in the world of the University.

So it you've never experienced going away to college, dealing with a roommate, pledging to a fraternity or taking part in general US college life, then large chunks of this movie won't have the same emotional resonance that the simple idea of "there are monsters in the closet" did.

Having said that, if you've ever seen any American movies or teevee shows set in a University context, then you're up to speed on all the basic concepts. In fact, if you've seen Revenge of the Nerds I think you'll know everything that you need to know.

From that perspective, even with the Monsters universe layer over the top, I don't think the movie breaks a lot of new ground. It's fairly "by the numbers" as far as plot is concerned with a couple of small exceptions.

There were a couple of things that did kind of bug me... the first one being a line from the original Monsters Inc... "You've been jealous of my good looks since the fourth grade, pal."

That implies a whole lot of things... all of which is thrown away for the purposes of this movie. And it's not like they "forgot", I've read somewhere that they knew about the line but decided to disregard it on purpose. Which is a little disappointing... there must have been a bunch of ways that they could have worked that story point in... but they chose not to.

The other quibble is with the resolution of the story... there's a point where it just feels like the whole movie has smacked face first into a wall. And it kind of stands there for a while, somewhat dazed. Yes, the end of the movie does polish it off nicely, but it almost feels like they weren't completely sure how to get from point A to point B cleanly.

There are a couple of other little quibbles with certain parts of the story, but those are the main two.

But I have to admit there were a large number of really nice callbacks to the first movie... either just by characters showing up or other subtle jokes, like the use of "The Winds Of Change" line as a motivational poster in Mike's dorm room.

And now to pretty much say the same thing I say after every CG animation movie...

This is honestly the best looking CG movie I've seen yet. For the most part this is always going to be true... each CG movie should build upon the backs of all the previous ones, but I noticed so much detail in Monsters University.

Maybe part of it was the fact that I'm familiar with the main characters, so I noticed all the little improvements, and once I noticed them there, I kept on noticing them. But even so, what they've done with fur textures is really amazing... there's one scene where Sully is walking away and the fur at the top of his back just moves so realistically.

The lighting also looks fantastic... while the first movie had a lot of great lighting, there's some small moments in the sequel that really caught my attention.

There are a lot of new characters this time around and while there are a number of them that have a great visual style (both the PNK and HSS sorority girls spring to mind) the single most memorable character has to be Dean Hardscrabble, voiced by Helen Mirren... but when the character is a demonic winged centipede that flies a little like a dragon and speaks like a refined English governess.

While it's not as much of an emotional effecting universal journey this time out,it's still an enjoyable trip through the back-stories of a couple of great characters.

yani's rating: 3 two headed pigeons out of 5

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