It didn’t even hit me until recently that MONSTERS INC. is already a twelve-year-old movie, just the fourth film in a string of hits born of the now-famed Disney•Pixar relationship. Released nearly eight years before I became a parent – or, “The Rock Father” – my little ones hadn’t actually seen the film prior to the release of MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (Disney•Pixar’s 14th film) earlier this summer. While we’d missed the new prequel during it’s theatrical run, a review copy arrived here at Rock Father HQ courtesy of Disney… conveniently just one day after we’d seen the original broadcast on Disney XD.
Prequels are always such a toss-up when it comes to execution, the storytelling often suffering because we already know where the characters are going to end up (see: STAR WARS). But for the residents of Monstropolis, the Pixar crew really made it work well, crafting a story that feels more like a stand-alone film than a prequel, and one that further explores the world of “Monsters” in the only real way possible thanks to the ending of the first film, which [SPOILER ALERT] found that laughter was more powerful than fear.
Here we see future “Scarers” Sulley (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) coming together for the first time at Monsters University, learning the ways of the scaring pros in an academic setting (I would’ve thought a trade school was the path to scaring greatness). From ANIMAL HOUSE to REVENGE OF THE NERDS, the dynamic between our heroic duo and their fellow pledges of the Oozma Kappa Fraternity will be very familiar to grownups, while totally fresh to most kids as we see them evolve from adversaries to friends, while trying to find their place in the world between the “JOX” and the regular folk. Well, as regular as a monster can be… and they look adorable.
Being that this is THE ROCK FATHER, I can’t go without highlighting that touching moment when a nice Monster Mom waits for her kids… while listening to MASTODON!
In the end, with the “Scare Games” complete, there’s a lesson of honesty and truth to self in here that gets nicely wrapped-up with a little dash of that Disney “magic,” even though we know exactly where these characters will end up, and that the jobs they’re training so hard for will eventually be phased-out in favor of something friendlier.
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY played well here at Rock Father HQ, already commanding a request for a second viewing from my oldest, something we’ll likely get to later this week. The Blu-Ray presentation is flawless, and this being the first film that we’ve experienced here with an additional soundbar, the audio was enthralling. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is the first Pixar film to use a new rendering system that really amps-up the lighting effects, making the depth of the cinematic world seem more “real” than ever before. Truly impressive.
BONUS FEATURES: The short film entitled THE BLUE UMBRELLA absolutely captivated my four-year-old – the silent film prompting her to explain it’s events and meaning back to me in great detail. The second disc is packed with featurettes that go in-depth with the Pixar team on the creation of MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, even starting with a look at a morning on the Pixar Campus. I used to work in film some years back, and in those days, features like this were can’t-miss additions that I’d go out of my way to find on DVD. Now, I’ll watch them (time permitting) once and be done with them as they’re not really something that the youngest of audiences tend to enjoy. For big movie buffs or Disney•Pixar fans, they’re quite desirable.
The Rock Father Rating: 4/5 Stars