Monsters University is perhaps the niftiest-looking computer-animated feature to come along, but that’s about it. Its story has a good heart and rarely did I feel like uprooting my seat so I could throw it at the screen while listening to Billy Crystal. However, a pleasant message and a few technological achievements can’t keep the movie from being monumentally forgettable. Besides Up (2009), I’ve never been much of a Pixar adherent. At their best, they were a studio that at least took a more creative approach to family entertainment, making films that felt ahead of the competition. But now that Pixar has begun churning out sequels and prequels, diminishing returns are creeping in.
The film follows the backstory of Mike (voiced by Crystal) and Sully (voiced by John Goodman), the monstrous heroes from 2001’s Monsters, Inc., showing us how they met in college. Right there, the film puts itself in a precarious spot, as we know the two will become friends and their dreams of becoming professional scarers for Monsters, Inc. will happen. The challenge for the filmmakers is to somehow make this fresh or inventive, but the best they can muster is something moderately watchable — mostly because the picture is never able to shake the inevitable outcome.
Perhaps I’m being too tough on a kids’ film — I’m obviously not the target demographic. But beyond the flick’s structural flaws, the material’s just not there, especially for a studio that presents itself as above the rest. The film is little more than a G-rated version of Animal House (1978) or Revenge of the Nerds (1984), with our heroes and their dorky, outcast friends bucking against the dean (voiced by Helen Mirren) and the jocks at school. Some colorful CGI animation and sitcom-level jokes aren’t nearly enough to make this concept engaging. This is perhaps the most worrisome aspect of Pixar’s approach, as they’ve begun to crank out movies that are just photocopies of long established, tired genres. Pixar’s slowly become the follower instead of the leader, meaning the results, while decent, are also middling. Rated G.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists Beaucatcher