Movie Review: “Monsters University”

Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion
Dan Scanlon

For the first 15 years of their existence, Pixar was bulletproof. For the past three years, less so. Following the soaring success of 2010’s “Toy Story 3” was going to be difficult regardless, but 2011’s “Cars 2” and 2012’s “Brave” marked the first time in the company’s history that they released back-to-back films that could be considered disappointments (at least from a critical standpoint; they still made just under $1.1 billion in worldwide ticket sales). With the announcement that their next film would be “Monsters University,” a prequel to 2001’s “Monsters Inc.,” people smelled blood in the water. They’ve run out of ideas. They’re not even trying to be the Pixar of “old.” (That last line is an actual complaint from a fellow critic.) And to be fair, “Monsters University” doesn’t tug at the heart strings the way its predecessor did, but at the same time, how could it? Boo was one of the cutest characters in movie history, and there was no organic way of playing that card in a college setting.

So no, “Monsters University” won’t be anyone’s favorite Pixar movie, but it’s still quite enjoyable, funny, beautifully rendered, and it has a great message for kids about not letting anyone tell you what you can or can’t be. It’s no “Up” or “WALL∙E,” but it’s better than Pixar’s last two films combined, and for that alone, we should be thankful.

Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) arrives on the campus of Monsters University with stars in his eyes. He has wanted to be a scarer since he was a little boy, and has read every book on the subject. Jimmy Sullivan (John Goodman), on the other hand, is a prodigy, a natural born scarer who takes his gifts for granted. After both are kicked out of scaring school because of their obvious shortcomings (Sulley is lazy, and Mike just isn’t scary enough), Mike makes a bet with the tough-nosed Dean Hardscrabble (a pitch-perfect Helen Mirren), where she will let him back into scaring school if he and his oddball fraternity brothers win the annual Scare Games competition. If he loses, he’s expelled from school. Yep, it’s “Revenge of the Nerds,” with monsters, and John Goodman on the ‘nerd’ side of the battle this time around.

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Coming Soon: A Moviegoer’s Guide to June


Though the summer movie season is typically reserved for the kind of big blockbuster action films that dominated theaters last month, June offers a more eclectic assortment of movies, including star-studded comedies, small indies, and yes, another helping of big blockbuster action films. From the return of Superman to the end of the world (twice), there are plenty of good reasons to get out of the sweltering heat and be entertained this June.


Who: Vince Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Rose Byrne and John Goodman
What: Two salesmen whose careers have been ruined by the digital age get internships at Google, where they must compete against young, tech-savvy geniuses.
When: June 7th
Why: It’s been almost a decade since Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson teamed up for “Wedding Crashers” – which, along with “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” helped revive the R-rated comedy – so there’s a certain degree of excitement about seeing them together on screen again. Of course, “Wedding Crashers” was actually funny, whereas “The Internship” doesn’t look quite as promising. The studio clearly believes that just by reuniting the two actors, the laughs will automatically flow, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Director Shawn Levy’s previous comedies have been pretty tame in comparison to the duo’s last film, and many of the jokes in the trailer feel about five years past their sell-by date, Still, the Vaughn/Wilson reunion is simply too enticing to pass up, so I wouldn’t count out “The Internship” just yet.


Who: Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Clark Gregg, Reed Diamond and Nathan Fillion
What: A modern retelling of Shakespeare’s classic comedy about two pairs of lovers with different takes on romance and a way with words.
When: June 7th
Why: Most directors would take a much deserved vacation after wrapping on a movie as massive as “The Avengers,” but not Joss Whedon, who used his short break between filming and post-production on the Marvel blockbuster to shoot a modern day version of “Much Ado About Nothing” with some friends at his house. The movie is packed with familiar faces from the director’s so-called Whedonverse, with every one of his former TV shows represented in some capacity. Shot entirely in black and white, the film looks about as close to a low budget indie as you’re bound to find, but Whedon and Shakespeare are such a great fit (both celebrated for their sharp and witty dialogue) that it’s a wonder the latter didn’t attempt an adaptation of the Bard’s classic any sooner.

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