Friday, June 21, 2013

Monsters University Passes (But Not With Honors)

File photo: Henry J. Waternoose III
The Wisdom of Pixar is pleased to present this exclusive review of the Pixar film Monsters University by none other than Henry J. Waternoose III, former CEO of Monsters, Inc., who now resides in the MonsterMax Correctional Facility for the Maniacally Troubled.

Watching Monsters University brings mixed feelings. I miss my role as CEO of Monsters, Inc., but nevertheless enjoyed seeing it in the film. It was exciting to see the eagerness of future scarers, too, reminding me fondly of my old trademark move, the Waternoose Jump and Growl.

Whoever the filmmakers cast as young Mike Wazowski, this little fellow has truly captured a childlike essence and sense of wonder. His visit to Monsters, Inc. was, for me, a high point of Monsters University. That's exactly the kind of reaction I always wished to instill in young visitors--hoping they would want to become the scarers of the future.

Given my past, uh, encounters with Mr. Wazowski and Mr. Sullivan, some might think I hold a grudge. Oh, I did the first five or six years after my ... departure. But now, after twelve years, I have changed. Sulley, incidentally, did a fine job of slimming down for the role, while Mr. Wazowski looks about the same as ever.

The story is very much about Wazowski and his experience in wanting, more than anything, to become a top scarer. Beginning his studies at Monsters University. Wazowski discovers that college life is more difficult than he anticipated.

Thrust into an unexpected alliance with rival Sullivan, the two make some unlikely friends in the members of the Oozma Kappa fraternity, as well as some enemies in Roar Omega Roar. Once the stage is set for a contest, the film hits its stride, showing the underdog Oozma Kappa's both capable and determined. The message is fairly simple: teamwork is helpful and use and embrace your own talents and strengths.

Visually, the film is stunning, as expected, but no doubt much time and care went into each frame. The music is acceptable, sometimes rising to wonderful, but at other times sounding far too much like music from films like Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and, no doubt deliberately, Monsters, Inc.

Admittedly, the characters did not grab my attention as much as I'd hoped they would, nor did the overall story. The dialogue is simply not as funny as Monsters, Inc. Don't get me wrong. It's entertaining enough. Monsters University passes, so to speak, but never quite graduates with honors. Perhaps Pixar's next film, The Good Dinosaur, will rise to the likes of originality found in Up. Monsters University seems to lack the deeply emotional punch that Pixar is known for, unfortunately.

Still, Monsters University is a fun film. The color palette is beautiful and some supporting characters are quite fun to watch including Ms. Squibbles, Johnny Worthington III, and Dean Hardscrabble. Some jokes, though, felt flat and uninspired, such as the slow-moving slug.

Overall, Monsters University is a middle-of-the-road Pixar film--not superb, but far from a failure. It is, for my tastes, too average. Pixar can do better.

As for that old photo of me in the credits, what can I say? Everyone looked that way back then!

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