MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Billy Crystal as MIKE
John Goodman as SULLIVAN
Steve Buscemi as RANDY
Helen Mirren as DEAN HARDSCRABBLE
Peter Sohn as SQUISHY
Joel Murray as DON
Sean Hayes as TERRI
Dave Foley as TERRY
Charlie Day as ART
Directed by: Dan Scanlon
BY KEVIN CARR
Pixar is such a unique studio in Hollywood (partially achieved by not actually being in or from Hollywood). Some of that uniqueness and charm has been diluted by following a more standard business plan of developing sequels to popular properties and possibly overdeveloping its brand. However, even with prequel and sequel madness, Pixar has managed to deliver quality content for almost two decades.
The latest potential disaster that turned out beautiful is “Monsters University,” a prequel to the 2001 smash hit “Monsters Inc.” Where this film could have been a derivative mess, the brilliant minds at Pixar managed to focus on the story enough to draw a charming story out of it with a lot of heart.
And it managed to keep the cool, fresh look of crazy monsters abound in it as well. That’s actually quite a feat to behold.
The story follows Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) when they were in college, planning to take the scare world by storm. Initially enemies, the two end up leading a band of misfits to become a real team and take on the popular jocks of the school.
It’s a pretty standard college story, dipping into the well that fed films like “Revenge of the Nerds” and “Animal House” (though leaving all that R-rated content behind to make a delightful G-rated family film). Who doesn’t like an underdog, after all?
The reason “Monsters University” is a triumph is that we know where the characters are headed. We know they become life-long friends. We know Sully becomes the greatest scarer in the history of Monstropolis. Heck, we even know that one day, the monsters will discover that screams are obsolete and unnecessary in the wake of developing laughter technology.
But all of this is okay because “Monsters University” tells a sweet story about the characters’ development rather than being a means to and end of their journey. We get to see how they become the characters we loved in “Monsters Inc.”
Sure, “Monsters University” isn’t as amazing as the “Toy Story” sequels, and it still doesn’t top the original. But when it comes to churned out prequels capitalizing on existing properties, it’s one heck of a fine film.
The Blu-ray comes with two high definition discs. One has the movie itself with an audio commentary and the beautiful short film “The Blue Umbrella.” The second disc features more than a dozen features looking at the development of the film and showing that even with the seemingly oppressive work hours, Pixar is probably the most fun place to work in the world. Features includes “Campus Life,” “Story School,” “Scare Games” (an in-Pixar competition showing how cool it would be to work there), “Monthropology,” “Welcome to MU,” “Music Appreciation,” “Scare Tactics,” “Color and Light,” “Paths to Pixar: MU Edition” (my personal favorite about how the animators found their way to Pixar after striking out in amazingly different paths earlier in life) and “Furry Monsters.
There’s also deleted scenes, set flythroughs, an art gallery and promo picks.