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?
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.
"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!