Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — The very concept of a sequel or prequel may start often off as a well-intentioned way to continue the adventures of our most beloved characters, but the more celebrated the individuals of any given franchise are, the more slippery the slope is while trying to please an audience guaranteed to be divided. No matter the investment or tiptoeing to try and not bring about geek rage, some viewers will ultimately always be disappointed and feel as if the filmmakers have ruined some holy vision of what they loved about what came first.
Today’s title, though animated, features some of those very examples and while I was actually thrilled to see them coming back to the screen after more than a decade, also remained cautiously curious as to whether or not those involved were going to present more of a commercial endorsement for movie related products instead of a script with a meaningful plot. Thankfully this turned out not to be the case and while I still consider Pixar able to be at the top of their potential game, they steered clear of simply pumping out a cash grab much like the so-so efforts of a certain car related second chapter. “Monsters University” not only managed to capture some of that same magic that made the scary duo so memorable years ago, but in effect enhanced that special magic with a depth worth exploring.
The story starts off actually quite early with an endearing look at how the shorter of our two familiar characters, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), is first inspired to enter the world of professional scaring. Bringing back that familiar and inspiring determination to not allow the things that make him different keep him down; we are caught up right away in this quest that eventually leads to the place with the same name as the flick.
Conversely, despite the much more glorious and loveable portrayal of Sulley (John Goodman) as we knew him during his introduction back in 2001, this backstory reveals a much less flattering chapter in his past. A polar opposite of mike, who almost exclusively dedicates his time to studies, he assumes he can get by on his illustrious family name and raw talent with no shame in stepping on those in his way. However, what truly makes this cinematic experience special is the delivery of how neither has their world figured out and only through a at first reluctant alliance, will either stand a chance at a future worth bragging about.
Though there are a couple of other recognizable character references within the story, including a desperate to fit in Randy Boggs (Steve Buscemi), what makes things freshest is bringing to life how other characters like a relentlessly strict Dean Abigail Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) add to the plot. Sure we get to love Mike/Sully all over again, but develop a new set of connections that really is far too many to sufficiently give props to.
For being something that we knew what the ending would be (sort of), it’s inventive enough as well as exploratory in things we might have had questions about to entertain and you really have to be missing the point if you are bored with the antics throughout. There is also again a decent soundtrack effort by Randy Newman and at the end of the day something I would recommend for any kid or young at heart looking for genuine ideas. It ultimately earns “Monsters University” four out of five doors.
Movie viewing experience courtesy of the Royal Twin Theater of Pauls Valley.