Monsters University

Took me a while to see this, and when I finally got the chance there were no showings with the original voices (conveniently). So I had to watch the Finnish dub, aaaaaaaand there wasn’t really anything bad about it expect that I didn’t really need it for anything.

Monsters University is a prequel to Monsters, inc, telling the story of the young monsters Mike and Sulley ended up working in the scare business in the original film (as the monster world is powered by the screams of children). Since childhood it has been Mike’s dream to become a professional scarer, and he has worked hard to get into Monsters University to study for it. Mike takes studying very seriously and practically knows all the books and theory by heart, while Sully, also a scarer major, relies on his instincts and natural talent. Due to opposing ideals the two don’t get along at all, but after getting kicked out from the scarer curriculum they must team up to get back.

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Images from Google. Review contains spoilers.

The film opened with a short film “The Blue Umbrella”, which didn’t do much for me. At first it looked like it was going to be yet another “Boo hoo I’m special but the boring masses won’t accept me!!!” unique snowflake story, but in the end it was a yet another “the male is rewarded a female for his struggles” story, and neither belongs to my favourites. But the urban faces were funny, and the animation was amazing, I had to really concentrate on whether it was animation in the first place.

blueUmbrella

Monsters University was unfortunate to have one of the least possible interesting themes to me for its subject. We don’t have a college culture like that in Finland, so I have no frame of reference for teens living in dormitories, competing fraternities, or plastering your school’s logo on caps, flags, shirts, keychains and every other possible object, and so on. Sure, I don’t have much in common with robots in post-apocalyptic Earth or senior citizen coping with the death of his wife either, but that’s kind of different. This time I feared the movie would be rubbing my face with college themed jokes and plot points I knew other people (Americans?) would get, but to me it would be like having to listen to other people’s in-jokes. But this is Pixar so obviously that wasn’t a problem, I didn’t feel “left out” even if I don’t think (American?) college culture is the best thing ever.

I love the moral of the story. With Disney pushing “You can do absolutely anything if you believe/love/try hard enough!” in every other film it’s nice to have a brutally honest “there are some things you won’t be able to do” for once. Plus I liked how Mike and Sulley were still expelled despite surprising the Dean and pulling off the biggest scare in the school history, because they DID cheat in the scaring competition, go to the human world without permission and risking themselves and possibly the other monster world too, and destroy the other students’ door project.

Mike was awesome to have for a main character. Usually if any attention is put to a character’s academic success they tend to be bad at school, and if they are good at studying they’re portrayed as weak and laughable nerds with no social skills, so Mike was a refreshing change. And I loved his determination and friendly behaviour. The naturally-talented-but-lazy Sulley was a nice contrast to Mike, and I really like stories where a jerk learns to be less of a jerk. And I’m a sucker for anything resembling a bromance so practically I enjoyed every minute they were on the screen together.

One thing that I realised about Mike’s character design after seeing the movie was how little it bothered me. I mean, it’s a giant ball with just one huge eye and mouth and no nose, eyebrow(s) or ears, shouldn’t that cause even a little Uncanny Valley problems? But, it didn’t, and I didn’t even really register he had only one eye until the movie was over and I was googling pictures of it, and the emotional moments where his face was focused never felt disturbing or goofy. Weird huh?

I will join the choir that sings how great character Dean Hardscrabble was. Great design, great voice acting (well, in the Finnish dub I saw at least), great character arc etc. I love how her design screams “We have a villain over here!” but in the end there are no real villains in the film. And I also like how she isn’t demonised for being a stern teacher, I mean okay she was kind of rude and didn’t give Mike and Sulley a fair chance to perform in the scaring exam, but in the end she did have a good point and she was kind of supportive at the end (only a little bit though).

There were disappointingly few female characters with Hardscrabble being the only one who really mattered, but since it was centered around Mike, Sulley and their fraternity it’s probably better this way instead of forcing in irrelevant female characters just for the sake of having more girls. And to the film’s credit, many of the female characters it did have were not forced to the “conventionally pretty for a male viewer” design.

A special mention to little Randall. He and Mike had such a cute friendship! I hear people were disappointed with him not getting any more attention, but I was fine with this, I was more interested in Mike’s story.

randall

Lastly, man that finale was intensive. They even scared the Dean!

A lot of reviews seem to be saying “It was good, but not Pixar’s best”. I dunno about that, they’re all so different movies that it’s hard to compare them. I sure enjoyed it a lot and wasn’t bored or angry for a second, and with time this might rise even to my Great tier (or fall to Ok tier once the novelty disappears…).

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