Monsters University: The Parental Guidance of Pixar Movies
- Thursday, June 20, 2013
DVD Release Date: October 29, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: June 21, 2013
Run Time: 102 min.
Director: Dan Scanlon
Cast: Voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes, Nathan Fillion, John Ratzenberger, Julia Sweeney
Late in 2012, Billy Crystal and Bette Midler starred in the middling but not unpleasant family-oriented comedy Parental Guidance. While not great cinema or particularly funny, it also didn’t notably offend in its content or language (it received a PG rating for "some rude humor"). The result was one of the season’s genuine box-office surprises. While no blockbuster, Parental Guidance pulled in a worldwide gross of nearly $120 million.
However, box office expectations for films from Pixar Animation Studios carry much higher expectations. Monsters University, the prequel to the studio’s Monsters Inc. ($289 million worldwide), is no exception. But the studio’s recent efforts to build franchises around some of its most successful films have yet to prove viable. Yes, the studio's three Toy Story films have been huge commercial and critical successes, but Cars 2, a sequel to what is perhaps Pixar's least admired original film, underperformed. Although it grossed $191 million, the total dropped more than $50 million from the performance of Cars five years earlier.
Monsters University, directed and co-written by Dan Scanlon (the original was directed by Pete Docter and David Silverman), is not on par with the Toy Story sequels. Not even close. Yet the film's genial nature and thoroughgoing inoffensiveness (it’s rated, refreshingly, G) make it palatable if nothing more. Like Parental Guidance—which starred Billy Crystal, the actor who gives the voice to the main character in Monsters University—this film is bland but rather enjoyable. It's the Parental Guidance of Pixar movies, and that means adult fans of the studio's brilliant earlier family entertainment will probably be at least a little disappointed by the new film.
Mike Wazowski (voice of Crystal) has always wanted to be a Scarer, extracting the screams of frightened, "toxic" children because screams are a power source for his city, Monstropolis. Mike knows that the best place to train is the School of Scaring—the "crown jewel" of Monsters University. There’s just one problem: he's not scary, and everyone at the school except Mike—including his roommate, Sullivan (John Goodman, The Artist) and Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren, Red)—knows it. Mike's just a big green eyeball with legs, more adorable and odd than frightening.
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