Momma Told Me: Walk, Slither, Fly, and Scare Your Way To #MonstersU Review

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Walk, Slither, Fly, and Scare Your Way To #MonstersU Review

***Our family attended a press screening prior to this feature's release. No form of compensation, or review was contingent upon our viewing. All #MonstersU concept art and screenshots are copyright Disney/Pixar 2013.
Monsters University concept art
Momma Told Me: The best family films entertain the family.

My childhood was timed in such a manner that my very first Disney fascination was Aladdin. It had everything a kid could want, for a feature film of it's time, colorful characters brought to life by the charismatic voice of Robin Williams, and the mesmerizing score of Alan Menken and Tim Rice. I was whole heartedly in love with 2D animation, until Pixar appeared on the scene with their introduction of a whole new genre. Toy Story (1995) revolutionized how children of the future would view animated entertainment. Storytellers were no longer limited by the human hand; concepts could be brought to life through digital programming and computer generation. It was a prequal to the video game revolution of my teenage years.

Now, everyone has a favorite Pixar film. Finding Nemo often receives the most shout outs in pop-culture, though I argue WALL-E was a cinematic breakthrough, visually. Secretly, one of the lesser acclaimed movies, Ratatouille, has always been high atop my list. I'll say it now, for all to read; I never paid much obsession to Monsters Inc. By the time it was released in 2001, I was already in high school. As strange as it sounds, I recall looking forward to A Bug's Life much more than I ever raised a brow at Monster's Inc. However, A Bug's Life was intended to be Pixar's crown jewel, and pushed back behind the release of Toy Story, as it's premiere film. I remember seeing a preview for A Bug's Life in 1994, prior to even Toy Story's release, and asking Momma when that 'bug movie' was going to come out every week for years! And today, who clamors to watch A Bug's Life?
But I digress. As most things tend to go, having a child in one's household can really foster a new perspective. I'm not quite sure how far back it was 'leaked' that Pixar had a Monster's Inc prequel in the works, but I feel as though I, myself, have been put through a lifetime of 'When's the new Monster's movie coming out?' So, you'll imagine my relief when the prophetic screening invite wound up in my inbox last month. I could finally check 'that one' off my list, we were headed to see Monster's University! Of course, in preparation, we watched the original film, a relic to modern childhood films, and I began to fall in love with the characters in a way I hadn't ten years earlier. There are so many things one can see in a Pixar film. I'm sure college papers could be written on the style of character design, the score of music, the story building, etc. Watching a Pixar film is a completely different experience each time, and that's why I love Pixar.
Pixar's The Blue Umbrella
I've already shared our journey to see #MonstersU, which involved minor face painting, to resemble Sulley, and the furious clutching of Monsters University dog toys (shown above). I'd picked up some jumbo quarter machine (prize) balls and stuffed them with $.25 candy from the party store, and the three of us arrived over an hour early, bums in seat, clutching Mike or Sulley dog toy. By this point I was pretty excited. I'd kept my media buzz on the film to a minimum, so the film would be as 'fresh' as possible, and boy was it worth it! But first the audience was treated to a classic Pixar short, the acclaimed The Blue Umbrella. This entirely animated masterpiece pushes the limits of computer rendering with rapid movement and vibrant colors against moody shadowing. It is, at it's simplest, a tale of two umbrellas in the big city, but it is ultimately an uplifting bit of commentary on the human, erm Umbrella?, spirit. And, if that didn't get the message across, the point here is to arrive at your seats before the lights go down, so you can catch this Pixar short!
But what about the actual film? It seems almost a mute point to even 'review' the film at this point. Chances are the happy meal hype and constant stream of commercials had your kids drag you over the weekend. For those still undecided, I'm here to offer a rare, and enthusiastic 2 thumbs up. Recall me saying I was never much of a Monster's Inc fan? Well #MonstersU not only stands on it's own as a separate film, but the prequal style makes it exceedingly appropriate to serve as the introduction into the Monsters franchise for younger generations. I do have to say, I was not thrilled to hear we were going into yet another '3D' film- but grumbles aside about grease smeared plastic glasses, Monster's University lacked the classical 'cheap 3D' visual gimmicks. You know, the ones where a hundred arrows are flying at the screen for no other plot reason than to play with visual boundaries? This 3D feature played beautifully to my eyes, and naturally to my perception with beautiful 3D rendering that brought textures to life, not action sequences.
Monsters University screen cap
Monster's University seemed to quadruple the amount of 'monster' in this film. That's great, because young children love to use their imagination to craft these bumps in the night, and Pixar brought nearly every type of monster conceived to life, from scary to Squishy. And there are plenty of new core characters to fall in love with; did I mention Squishy? Perhaps one of the more loveable newer characters Squishy is a multi-eyed, blob like character that happens to have a mother who owns the Oozma Kappa (OK) sorority house our famed heroes, Mike and Sulley, wind up in. Speaking of characters, keep your eyes open for Archie the Scare Pig mascot, shown above, who I am officially petitioning to be made the next Monster's U plush.

So, does the transition from working Monsters to wild and rambunctious college students lose some of the younger crowd in the mix? I was worried some of the 'University' themes might get a little mature for the K-5 group, but I praise Pixar for a classy job well done. Of course, the entire premise is of two Monsters living the 'campus' life, and trying to figure out where they fit in. The majority of the main plot circles around sororities and fraternities; I'd rather not have our 10 year old asking too many questions about their real life counterparts. Thankfully, Pixar kept the shenanigans, and 'events' to a PG, Monsters nature, which was quite classy.
Aside from this film literally tickling my retinas (I could watch this for days and feel giddy from the explosion of colors, patters, and textures), Monster's University is without a doubt a visual triumph, sure to entertain even the staunchest of Pixar skeptics. I loved seeing our beloved heroes from childhood up, and found it interesting how the movie wove around the core message of friendship. Believe it or not, loveable Sulley is really quite the schmuck for the first 70 minutes of the film. Sabrina (10) actually switched from Sulley to Mike plush characters after walking out of the theater. The ugly green, one-eyed, monster that previously had little fan appeal is now a childhood role model (go figure). As put by a 10 year-old, "Sulley might be cuter, and better at scaring, but Mike's a real friend, and you don't find many of those!"

Parents, do expect some thematically intense scenes, particularly with Dean Hardscrabble (possibly the most terrifying representation of a monster in the entire film), and a few moments of breathtaking fear towards the end, as our heroes reach the climax of their journey. Obviously, since this is a prequel, we know everything turns out fine; be sure to remind the little ones of that! Overall, I am certain we will be seeing this on the big screen again, within the next few weeks; and I'd go so far as to say it is one of my favorite films of the year, so far. Not bad for a 'kids film,' right?

What Daughter Says: As if you weren't going to already, get into a theater and see this film!


12 comments:

  1. I'm a huge fan of the first Monsters Inc and can't wait to see this. There are a few other movies out I'm interested in seeing, but I know this one I'll actually be buying and will watch over and over.

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  2. My daughter wanted to see this on opening day, so my husband took her on a "a date." She loved it!! She said she can't wait for it to come out on DVD. We love the Monsters Inc. show at Disneyworld and this new release will be a fun way to prepare for our trip.

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  3. Monsters Inc was a fantastic movie that everyone enjoyed. Even though my kids are teens, my daughter has already watched this & loved it!

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  4. Since seeing the first movie I have become a big fan and shared it with my grand kids. I'm looking forward to seeing this one with them too. Can't wait.

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  5. Loved the movie and psst, don't tell anyone I nearly cried watching the umbrella film

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  6. I absolutely loved the colors and vibrantness of the first movie, so I'm certain your assessment of its vibrancy is spot on and only better than the first! I can't wait to see it. And I love the interwoven theme of friendship you mentioned. That is so important to help our kids remember. Your girl is so cute switching plush characters in the movie to the more true and loyal one! :)

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  7. I was so happy to see that Disney was going to make another Monster movie! We loved the first one! I think the drive in is supposed to get this movie on Friday. I'm excited to watch it under the stars with my family.

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  8. I'm hearing so much about Monsters U and it's made me really curious about seeing it. I have to confess I may be the last person on earth who hasn't even seen Monsters Inc! I really need to watch it, then I can check out Monsters U :)

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  9. I can not wait to see this. We have been talking non stop.

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  10. I have watched clips of this movie and seen many stills. The charactersa and the actors voicing them make me laugh every time!

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  11. i so cant wait to see this movie with the family :)

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  12. Oh I can't wait to see this movie. My oldest recently saw the first one and laughed until he cried. I can't believe he is finally old enough for me to take to these movies and say he wants to see them, when we all know it's really me. :)

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