Monsters University: Scareonomics (2013)

Posted: June 23, 2013 in Adventure, Animated, Comedy
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Monsters-University-poster_810x1200From the very first trip to the Monsters Inc. power plant, Mike knew that he wanted to go to Monsters University to study scaring. Taking his first steps on the campus, he was more than excited to start his college journey. He makes his rounds through the campus to get acquainted and meets his new roommate, Randall. Both of them are scaring majors. On the first day of class, Mike is ready to answer the first question of the semester when James ‘Sully’ Sullivan strolls in late and releases the big roar that the professor is trying to dissect. The two immediately become rivals, with Mike relying on his study habits and Sully letting his name and natural scaring talents speak for themselves. Both find their rivalry putting a damper on their success in the scaring program, but teaming up and winning the Scare Games could put both of them back on track to achieve their scaring dreams.

Starring: Billy Crystal (Mike), John Goodman (James ‘Sully’ Sullivan), Steve Buscemi (Randall), Helen Mirren (Dean Hardscrabble), Peter Sohn (Squishy), Joel Murray (Don), Sean Hayes (Terri), Dave Foley (Terry), Charlie Day (Art), Alfred Molina (Professor Knight), Tyler Labine (Greek Council VP), Nathan Fillion (Johnny), Aubrey Plaza (Claire Wheeler), Bobby Moynihan (Chet)

Turning back the clock from the original feature film, the returning acting talent had to give a more youthful performance to give life to the film. Crystal and Goodman had a great partnership with each other, playing off the other’s unique character. Buscemi was able to present the transformation of Randall in a very believable and entertaining way. As for the new cast, the balance between the “scary” and the meek characters rounded out the entire experience.

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Having hit it big with Cars, Dan Scanlon took the existing Monsters universe, turned back the clock and used the college experience to teach a number of important lessons. Mike became the central focus of the film because his story was that of an underdog who wants something that is seemingly out of reach. As a child, he was small and considered not scary by his peers, but an experience at Monsters Inc. caused him to have the confidence to pursue his dreams. Life in college was exciting at first, but he quickly learned that he was competing against much tougher competition. His determination was able to help him overcome significant adversity, but there was too much against him to guarantee a full comeback. So the end result of the film was to explain that every dream is not a reality but everyone can pursue a dream that gives purpose.

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The success of this film was really in the details. The college environment created was rather impressive, with the architecture containing many monster-like elements (teeth, horns, scales, etc.). The characters represented many of the stereotypes of college life but then had their monstrous sides, like the cheerleaders looking cute and then transforming into hissing, red-eyed creatures. The professors in the most desired majors were energetic and engaging, while the one in the can design class was monotoned and acknowledged his pathetic existence. The Scare Games represented Greek Week, with each of the houses competing in a variety of contests. Even the website to advertise the movie is set up to look like a college webpage.

It is true that this film lacks some of the newness of the other Pixar films, but the magic of the Monsters universe, memorable characters and detailed design make this a true winner.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

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