Monsters University: Pixar WIN

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Review: 9/10

Oh I am fussy about my films. Often things are too cheerful, too long, too this, too that. The fact that this film can make me smile days after I’ve watched is testament to its epic WIN-ness. No gimmicks, no grand loud 3D stunts; just consistently solid storytelling, a lot of love and effort, a…wonderful soundtrack and some truly sweet voice acting.

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There is no doubt that the Billy Crystal – John Goodman pairing was written in the stars. The two have the chemistry that makes this film sing even more than Monsters Inc. did – and John puts it wonderfully:

“I think the reason they work so well together is that they complete each other, in a way.  I think Sulley really, really needs Mike Wazowski.  It makes him complete, and it lets the air out of him, a little bit.  Especially in this film, when they’re not completely formed monsters yet, they learn from each other.  They learn how to adapt, and how to let go of their pre-conceived notions of themselves and of the world.  They’re good for each other.”
– John Goodman, collider.com

Here’s John from when he played Fred Flintstone. Isn’t he gargantuan?

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Crystal likened Mike’s need to have someone to catch him when he flies off the handle to times when he himself needed “someone as grounded as John” when he went off script to improvise.
Reuters

What I find so amazing is that despite what Billy says above, in the film, it’s Sulley that needs Mike to keep him motivated and firmly fixed to some principles. I mean they obviously need each other but it’s obvious that Mike has drive, dreams and passion, and Sulley doesn’t have much to live for, even though he is talented. Then again, with Pixar films, we all project our own feelings everywhere. And yes. I know I’m going on about Pixar, and am giving Disney no love. Why should I? On the one hand there’s Steve Jobs. On the other, there’s a shut down 2D division. That’s right.

Mike reminded Billy Crystal of Ethel Merman, and this song instantly comes to mind:

I am almost…looking forward to watching the film again – when I can never bring myself to re-watch films within a 5-year period. I’m pretty sure it’s because it’s hit the spot. It explores what we’re all looking for, and the answer isn’t “love” or “answers” or “comfort”. It’s balance. Equilibrium. The see-saw of extremes is explored in a really charming manner : Sulley’s over-reliance on his name and talent; Mike’s reliance on his book smarts and long-time dream of becoming a scarer. I don’t know how they didn’t overkill the extremes in each character’s journey, but they didn’t. Genius.

Not to mention I’d watch it again, just to spot Pixar’s Easter Eggs.

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Bright eyed and bushy tailed, the natural way in which the main characters interact bleeds over to the inherently real and moderate guys on the Oozma Kappa team (follow them on Twitter!).

Each character is so lovingly illustrated, with texture and depth manipulated with a light hand: the Pixar team knew that over-realism would work against them (the uncanny effect), and they straddle that line with such grace, you can only acknowledge the talent behind this with the awe you feel coming out of the film, and even this awe is tempered by the real-ness of the story.

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This light hand I speak of is lent to the story-telling: I mean, the film nurses the stereotypes (the “thinly-veiled” evil sorority chicks, the jocks, the cheery nerd who’ll someday turn evil, the nasty dean) but never does it linger too long on these aspects. Everything is beautifully paced and everyone has just enough time and focus, never less, never more. I use ‘everything’ and ‘everyone’ with such ease because the film is integrated into itself, it *is* seamless. I would think that is the result of the sensitive work of masters; think of an artist so well versed with the rules that his abstract work makes us feel something strongly even though we do not know why. Look closely at the backgrounds in every scene. You’ll get what I mean.

Squishy

Newcomer Noah Johnston does a subtle young Michael (Mike) – kid does Billy’s work proud. Helen Mirren masterfully manages Dean Hardscrabble – who else could inject such personality into this – far away from merely stern. Animation-wise, Squishy was particularly inspired, with his transparent chubbiness (a brilliant example of how the Pixar team knew when to stop with the ‘plasticity’ plumping-ness). His character was definitely geared towards the cute-lovers in the audience, and although he *is* adorable, his smile is never vapid, his movements never vacant. With Monsters U, it’s as though Pixar figured out how to make each character grounded and self-aware : the way we used to feel about 2D animated characters. I wondered if I’d ever feel that way again about 3D animation – ever since Disney bought Pixar.

For the animators reading: here’s a look into how the film was animated from NixiePixel, and how the characters were physically based from fxguide.com.

I could go on and on about how lovely everything was, but I’ll end with Randy Newman’s ruddy brilliant soundtrack playlist on YouTube, and for crying out loud, how cool is it that Axwell and Sebastain Ingrosso of Swedish House Mafia did the frat party track? HOW WICKED IS THAT?

 

[ UPDATE: What if all Pixar films are in one universe (like DC or Marvel)? “Jon Negroni spent one year untangling the secret world hidden deep within Pixar films. This thesis originally appeared on his personal blog and quickly became a viral sensation. Negroni continues to update his post based on interesting feedback from readers” – via Mashable ]

Let me know what you loved (or disloved) about Monsters U. I may be very biased in my responses: you have been warned.

xx

Ash

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heh, you scrolled down this far – you deserve more of Billy and John :

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