Pfff, this film had some big shoes to fill, didn’t it? For me at least, as “Monsters Inc.” is one of my favourite films, and I think showed Pixar at its peak. Sure it wasn’t their biggest grossing film but it just really worked for me, as you can see from my gushing review.
So this summer we got a prequel. I’m a little alarmed at Pixar’s sudden desire to chew over its intellectual property for a few more bucks. Not that sequels themselves are a problem at all, I think that sort of thinking is pure snobbery. Even within Pixar’s canon I think “Toy Story 2” might even be my favourite of the trilogy. It’s just that suddenly they are considering sequels for a bunch of their movies all at once. “Cars 2” has already been and gone (sidenote: how uninspired does “Planes” look?), “Finding Dory” is on the way too … though why not “The Incredibles 2”? I’d think that was an obvious one to make a sequel of.
But I digress. Despite having loved “Monsters Inc.”, I didn’t have a burning desire to know more about the start of Mike & Sully’s friendship. “Monsters University” ended up as I feared; like the irritating “Cars”, the originality was largely limited to “OK how about it’s a generic American university campus, BUT WITH MONSTERS?”.
As a result, the bulk of the comedy rested on typical university situations, and how it would be funny if a student was a slug, or had tentacles etc. It didn’t do it for me. But hey, we have Mike & Sully. Except no, they were being douchebags for two thirds of the movie (maybe more). Everyone learned lessons about not being arrogant or bossy or whatever, with their personality deficiencies telegraphed so obviously they might as well paused the film periodically to ask “So class, what did Mike do wrong there? How did it make his friends feel?”.
But let me hold off, this sounds like a very negative review – sure it wasn’t (and was never going to be) a match for “Monsters Inc.”, but even a reasonable Pixar movie is better than a lot of stuff out there, if you ask me. There were some laughs, almost all from unexpected turns by supporting characters: The mum listening to her ‘tunes’ in the car, the squidgy multi-eyed guy’s final scare-off, the surely knowingly rushed transformation of Randall.
What I would definitely say though, if you loved “Monsters Inc.” then I think you really should see this. It doesn’t damage the legacy of that film at all, they navigate around it quite well. I guess it just didn’t elicit much of a reaction – it was about as good as expected, i.e. quite good, so I didn’t come out of there saying “OMG that was amazing/terrible”.
I hope Pixar get their mojo back and come up with some decent original ideas though, instead of the ‘unusual things in familiar situations’ tactic of this and “Cars”. The short film before “Monsters University” started was a bit saccharine but an interesting foray into photorealistic animation. I was sure it was a real-world/animation hybrid until I read that on Wikipedia, I was really convinced that was actual film footage! Could that be a hint of something to come?