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Does Pixar do for Monsters, Inc. what it did for Toy Story with this blockbuster sequel...?
Buena Vista / 104 Minutes / 2013 / Rated G / Street Date: October 29, 2013
When the Pixar machine strikes multiplexes, it makes a dent. Releases big and small are organized, designed, and executed with a cross-platform corporate presence that is so widely strewn that whether the movie itself has any major aesthetic import is beyond incidental: on opening weekend, kids and the adults who tend to them will know that a new Pixar effort is on the market, and the wallets open.
This sounds like the opening lines of a whiny anti-Hollywood rant, I know, but Monsters University lands on 3D Blu-ray - after earning a staggering $700 million worldwide – with such a thud that it’s difficult to comprehend. And it’s a singular offense: Pixar proved with gusto that it knows how to eschew sequel-itis squarely with its two Toy Story franchise offerings. No, what disappoints here is that these characters we’ve loved for so many years have adventures that feel vacuous and entirely unnecessary.
Switching around the history of the duo presented by the first film, this prequel to Monsters, Inc. ironically pits best buddies Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James Sullivan (John Goodman) as collegiate fraternity rivals. The giant Sully belongs to a super-jock frat and Mike to a more off-beat one, and when one thing leads to another and Sully gets kicked out of his house, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what happens, and where he has to set up shop. And in preparation for an event called The Scare Games, these onetime rivals become pals.
Pixar surely shelled out enough coin to draw together a sensational voice cast here – Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion, and the always reliable Crystal and Goodman – and that only exacerbates Monsters University’s shaky cinematic stasis. The movie is never offensive in terms of cliché or pedantic story progression, but this is a film made by folks aiming far lower than they did with projects past. It might just be a one-off entity, a unique misstep for the otherwise reliable studio, but Monsters University nevertheless feels like a movie that put the cart before the horse.