"Monsters University" (2013)- Movie Review

Directed by Dan Scanlon
Written by Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird and Dan Scanlon
Starring Billy Crytal, John Goodman and Helen Mirren

‘A Delightful Surprise’

Pixar has always been a company associated with high expectations. While not all of it’s films have lived up to the expectations of movie-goers, it still remains one of the most respected and beloved companies in the world. Over the last decade or so, Pixar has produced some of the best animation flicks ever made. For this reason and many more, its hard to not get excited when this studio dishes out movies.

“Monsters University”, Pixar’s latest creation, is a warm and admirable addition to the collection of great films usually made by the company. Its a charming, well-paced animation flick that works due to memorable characters and the same undeniable nostalgia that invigorated it’s predecessor. As the story is fully introduced, the film seems to be building up to a conventional conclusion but a unique twist occurs near the end. Instead of taking familiar routes, “Monsters University” features an unexpected surprise that makes it stand out from other movies of it’s type. The surprise is a useful tool that guides the film away from disastrous consequences such as predictability.

Its often difficult for a second entry in a series to live up to the standard set by the first. Only some films such as “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 2” have surpassed their predecessor in terms of quality. “Monsters University” nearly succeeds. The prequel to 2001’s “Monsters Inc.”, it traces the lives of Mike and Sulley in their university days. The movie shows how two completely different monsters; the determined Mike and laid-back Sulley, formed a friendship in their early days that would eventually pave the path for their career in “Monsters Inc.”.

“Monsters University” has an effective script and top-notch voice actors that exuberantly play their characters. Could one possibly ask for more from a film like this? Well, Pixar is widely known for tugging at the heartstrings with most of it’s movies. This is, quite unfortunately, the one thing that “Monsters University” isn’t able to do. Yet, even without that factor, the film is like a delicious cake: visually gorgeous with astonishing layers to it.

The script is crafted with a sharp eye for characters, paying close attention to dialogue which many animation flicks tend to under-use. In order to succeed, these kinds of movies need protagonists who are likable and have great personalities. In “Monsters University” the two main characters (Mike and Sulley) have larger-than-life personas, yet they also play a significant role in enhancing the depth of the story. Their relationship is one of the most vital aspects of the film. By faultlessly developing the characters, the screenwriters are able to show this friendship with ease.

When talking about the supporting players, some are just as memorable as the two leads. Particularly notable characters are the Dean Hardscrabble, the strict leader of a program in the university and a C-shaped creature named Art.

Surprisingly, the screenplay is also filled with unique dialogue that is witty and humorous. Each scene bursts with a sense of excitement due to crackling lines that are delivered to perfection. Animation movies normally emphasize characters instead of dialogue yet “Monsters University” brings out the best in both areas. It strikes an astounding balance between the two, something that many movies of its kind have tried yet failed to do.

The entire cast is at the top of it’s game with not one voice performer seeming worried or out of place. Many of the performances are so terrific that they assist in making the characters memorable.

Helen Mirren stands out the most in the role of a cold-hearted, solemn teacher who strongly believes in discipline. The British actress uses her tone of voice to it’s greatest potential; stealing every scene like a hound on the loose. She manages to create a voice so rich, colorful and haunting that it stays with you long after the film. Its also partially the reason why her character works so well on screen.

Taking everything into account, “Monsters University” is a superb effort from Pixar that approaches greatness. Although it’s story lacks the emotional depth that we usually come to expect from Pixar’s products, the film benefits from a surprise that leads it away from generic territory. And the characters are so captivating and refreshing, that a feeling of nostalgia is created. This prequel brings back memories of being a child that are almost irresistible.

4/5 stars

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