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szdaily -> Movies -> 
Monsters University
    2013-08-23  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

    WHILE it might lack the sheer sense of oddball freshness that Pixar’s 2001 animated hit “Monsters Inc.” arrived with back in 2001, the engagingly raucous “college-bonding” romp “Monsters University” is a bright, breezy, funny and beautifully presented film that will slug it out with “Despicable Me 2” for the animated hit of summer award.

    While the story itself might be less than original — a mismatched pair bicker and fight but gradually come to appreciate each other and overcome all odds, the familiarity with two much-loved lead characters (fast-speaking one-eyed Mike Wazowski and big’n’hairy natural scarer Sulley) is such that any audience will buy into the film and embrace this tale of how the pair came to be buddies.

    Directed by longtime Pixar storyboard artist Dan Scanlon, this colorful 3D comedy adventure is beautifully rendered. The college campus is a vibrant mix of strange buildings, rolling vistas and wacky monster characters. Mixing your classic college comedy with a dash of Hogwarts-style gothic genre, the film manages to layer in a few gently darker moments in amidst the breezy romps. Even a poorly judged (but entirely necessary) slow/bonding moment just before the beautifully staged climax doesn’t overly hamper the fresh and fun flow of the film.

    A sweetly sketched prologue takes us back to “Monsters Inc.,” the scare factory that sends monsters into the human world to terrify small children and harness their screams as a way of powering Monstropolis. Among the young monsters on a school field trip is the friendless but always upbeat Mike Wazowski (voiced by Noah Johnston), determined to be a scarer despite the fact that his look is somewhat less than scary.

    A few years later, he enrolls at Monsters University and heads to the School of Scaring class (a very Hogwarts sequence), where he has his first encounters with the terrifying Dean Hardscrabble (a nicely chilling voice performance from Helen Mirren) and more importantly the naturally scary Sulley (John Goodman), a cool and confident party monster, and the opposite of Mike’s wound-up bookworm.

    As the genial but raucous James P. “Sulley” Sullivan, who comes from a long line of top-notch scarers, Goodman is perfectly balanced by Billy Crystal’s smart and breezy turn as Mike, a motormouth would-be scarer whose confidence hides a certain lack of real ability.

    Naturally, the pair find themselves thrown together, and when they are set to be thrown out of the School of Scaring, they realize their only option is to join the weakest of college fraternities, Oozma Kappa, as a way of competing in the annual Scare Games (cue little links to “Hunger Games” and the Triwizard tournament in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire”) which offers them the only opportunity to impress Dean Hardscrabble and get their places back on the program.

    It comes as no surprise that their close encounter with the college outcasts leads to the expected “learning to work together” life lesson. Their battles against other fraternities in a series of games are among the highlights of the film. Refreshingly there are a few more twists along the way as well as a beautifully staged visit to the human world, before the film settles down to end with Mike and Sulley as the best of buddies, ready to take their chance to work at Monsters Inc.

    As is so often the case with Pixar films, there is much to enjoy with clever aides around the edges of the frame, while the film has to tone down the actual scariness of some of the monsters (they do look a pretty friendly bunch on the whole) to click with its core very young audience, it does sneak in a few darker moments.

    Film fans will like moments of the clinking keys on the cops’ belts (in a reference to “E.T”) when Mike and Sulley make their trip to the human world. The voice casting is spot on as usual with the likes of Steve Buscemi, Sean P. Hayes, Molina, Nathan Fillion and Aubrey Plaza, offering great supporting performances.

    The movie is now being screened in Shenzhen.

    (SD-Agencies)

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