Monstres Academy (2013)
The first "Monsters Inc." had an exciting premise both on a visual and story level, it created a parallel universe with monsters of various forms, designs, sizes and bodies: Mike Wazowsky (Billy Crystal) looked like an alien, James Sullivan (John Goodman) was a conventional grizzly-looking monster and then there were animal-like creatures like Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi). The most 'fun' aspect of these monsters was less their differences than their similarities with us humans. So we had to see it to believe they were monsters and then came the whole plot centers on the Monsters, Inc., the door system and the encounter with a little girl named Boo. You know the story.
The plot was simple although not devoid of a few contrivances here and there, but the charm lied in the simple things, in the sweet relationship between Sulley and Boo, something that felt like an early version of "Masha and the Bear" and the friendship between Sulley and Mike, served by great vocal performances from Goodman and Crystal. The ending where they realized they could obtain the same energy power by making kids laugh instead of screaming was a nice resolution that only left as a cliffhanger the slight possibility or visiting Boo again, but that's not the approach the sequel took. "Monster University" as its title indicates is a prequel to all the aforementioned events and answering to the questions that kept our mouth salivating for 16 years: how did the two monsters get their jobs? How did they become friends?
There's a bit of sarcasm in my introduction but it's not mean to diminish the merit of the film, which can be summed up as great entertainment with a wonderful gallery of colorful and colored characters once again, driven by a plot so rich it's a real credit to the intellectual dedication of the screenwriters. This is perhaps its greatest blessing and its greatest curse. At first, I was just thrilled to see little Mike being too funny-looking and enthusiastic for his own good, we all know Disney movies have always been about believing in your dreams, but when our little green Cyclopes says "I want to be a scarer", not only we don't take him seriously but we know he won't succeed, because we saw the first film.So we know it's not exactly the destination that will matter but the journey. I liked the journey but I didn't expect it to be so technical?
So we follow Mike as a first-year student in the university, discovering his roommate Randall Boggs, following the scare program, having his first course in the amphitheater and undergoing the mockeries of more credible monsters and the popularity of Sullivan who belongs to a prestigious family of scarers, not to mention the no-nonsense authority of Dean Handscrabble, voiced by Helen Mirren. I could relate to Mike and the film is perhaps the first animated feature to realistically portray the universe of universities. It also had its share of action and it carries that "underdog"' team aspect with the Oozma Kappa misfits and Mike being perfect in theory but not scary enough while Sulley relying on his looks like the hare on his fast legs. Still, I was surprised by the attention given to the contest, the graduation, being expelled or admitted. I liked the film but I wonder whether the script shouldn't have taken a much simpler and less convoluted path.
The plot is well-written but a tad over-written, even if we accept that this is a universe that is exactly like ours (though it doesn't play with the same rules), it's just too grounded on a bureaucratic and institutional reality, too real for its own good. And it just takes for granted that because it's monsters, we'll get more excited by its series of twists and revelations. There are some great moments but they're lost in a double-character's arc that doesn't inspire much escapism or dream-like animation, something that really wows you at the end, it's fun, it's a nice buddy movie but maybe we got too blasé when it comes to animated pictures and it takes some really inventive material to blow you away. Grade 7, I guess it passes the test but it's one of these Pixar movies I wouldn't want to see again and again.