Friday, 21 June 2013

Monsters University

(G) ★★★

Director: Dan Scanlon.

Cast: (voices of) Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren.

Mike was just minutes away from being used as a hackysack.

AMID the heavy hitters of Pixar's back catalogue, Monsters, Inc. is the under-rated gem.

Often unfairly overlooked compared to the Toy Story trilogy, Up, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles, the tale of scare-mongering duo Sully and Mike Wazowski was a wildly original, creative, hilarious and surprisingly touching comedy caper.

This is why it pains me so much to say this prequel is a major disappointment. Don't get me wrong, it's not a terrible film - it's still mildly enjoyable - but it feels so stock standard and flat compared to its dazzling predecessor.

As the title suggest, Monsters University covers Mike and Sully's college years, where Mike is the dedicated student following his dream of becoming a scarer and Sully is the naturally talented slacker expecting to coast through his degree.

A rivalry develops between the two, leading to college head Dean Hardscrabble (Mirren) kicking them out of their scaring course.

The only way to get back into the course is through a foolhardy bet between Mike and Hardscrabble - if Mike, Sully and their geeky fraternity can win the inter-fratenity competition known as the Scary Games, they can return to the scaring course. If they lose, they're out of Monsters University for good.

If all this sounds familiar, it's because the plot plays like a lazy mash-up of "college romp" movies such as Animal House and Revenge Of The Nerds.

The typical college life provides plenty of opportunity for the monsterised sight gags of Monsters, Inc., but again, it feels all too easy. Even the Scary Games feels like a tired trope despite being transplanted into Mike and Sully's world.

The silly sight gags are what is likely to keep the kids entertained because the plot appears aimed at an older audience, ie. one that grew up watching Monsters, Inc. and is now at college. This might make it a cult hit at universities, which is strange for a G-rated movie and makes you wonder if Pixar have completely missed their target on this one.

On the upside, the charms of Mike and Sully, voiced by Crystal and Goodman, that make this mildly enjoyable. Pixar have always been smart enough to realise that making the players more than just pixels is the secret to success, and here we get some heart and soul between Mike and Sully and the rest of their fraternity of misfits.

They all get some good lines, especially Crystal, and there are a few really solid gags and an endless array of adult-aimed nudges.

Best of all is the final act, when the film finally stops being a college collage and heads into intriguing territory. That's where Monsters University finally becomes surprising and interesting.

But it's almost too little, too late. The film predominantly coasts along a slacker student, doing only just enough to get by.

Of course, kids aren't going to mind. This will probably serve as their introduction to the college movie, and in years to come they may realise what Monsters University was riffing on, but in the meantime, it's likely most of it will fly over their heads.

Pixar have played with pre-established genres before, whether it be subverting the superhero ideal (the brilliant The Incredibles) or going weird on the spy movie (the misfire Cars 2).

But this dabble with the college romp feels stale and lazy, and only gets across the line thanks to nostalgic goodwill and some decent gags.

No comments:

Post a Comment