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Review: “Monsters University” a fun, touching prequel

Review: “Monsters University” a fun, touching prequel

June 21
13:06 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

4 out of 5 stars

After 12 years of patiently waiting, our favorite little monsters are back and better than ever. “Monsters University,” a prequel to the 2001 hit film “Monster’s, Inc.,” is an absolute joy from start to finish. Both funny and sentimental in all the right places, it’s one of the best films of the year that will leave you eager for more.

This charming feature begins with a young Mike Wazowski, voiced by Billy Crystal, still in elementary school. After a field trip to Monsters, Inc., Wazowski develops a dream: He must become a scarer.

Years later, he arrives at Monsters University, where he meets his rival James “Sully” Sullivan, voiced by John Goodman, a freshman that thinks his name of legendary scarers is good enough to get him through school. But after the duo engage in a battle of intelligence, they accidentally destroy a sacred item that belongs to Dean Hardscrabble (a devilish Helen Mirren) and get kicked out of the scare program.

Luckily, Wazowski comes up with a plan and makes a bet with Hardscrabble: if they assemble a team to compete in the annual Scare Games and win, they are allowed back in the program. Approving his request, it’s up to Wazowski, Sully and his team of “losers” to reclaim their spots.

Like most animation studios, Pixar has had its ups and downs. As “Cars 2” and “Brave” proved, their originality has been waning down. “Monsters University” may not necessarily be groundbreaking in terms of story, but it still has the first-rate animation and charitable moral lessons that we have come to expect from the gifted animated studio.

“Monsters, Inc.” introduced audiences to Wazowski and Sully when they were part of a corporation where monsters could travel through teleportation doors and into the bedrooms of children to scare them so their screams power their city. Human children were seen as dangerous creatures until the business learned that laughter is more beneficial for society than scares. What did Pixar teach us? That laughter, taking risks and overcoming our fears are some of the keys to life.

With “Monsters University,” Pixar has upheld this buoyant outlook. It’s about learning to embrace our unique, individual skills and accept fear and failure. While this may seem like the typical message coming from a movie about college, there is far more to this film than meets the eye.

The core of what makes these lovable monster movies so special is the friendship between Wazowski and Sully, voiced by the talented Crystal and Goodman. Here, they represent contrasting attitudes in college study life. Wazowski is the hardworking and determined outcast, while Sully is an indolent and self-absorbed student. But ultimately, it’s their distinct qualities that bring them together.

“Monsters University” is the most fun you will have all summer at the movies, especially if you are a student that loves family-friendly films. Expect recognizable voices, huge laughs and Pixar’s trademark lump in throat moments. It will remind you why you fell in love with this colorful universe and the enchanting characters all those years ago.

“Monsters University” opens today.

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