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IN SHORT: Delightful. [Rated G. 110 minutes]
The sequel to Monsters Inc. is, historically, a prequel that tells how one-eyed Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and furry, blue James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (John Goodman), first met at the University of the title. It has been a dozen years since that first film, which means the parental units we write for probably have single digit kidlets who have already watched their DVD copies of MI a lot of times. We sat next to a 6 year old who explained it all to us before the lights went down and the 3D glasses went on.
For those who really need to know our history with this franchise . . . we enjoyed Monsters Inc. though we thought Pixar paid too much attention to the tech of animating Sully's fur and not enough to a story that was just OK. The relationship between Mike and Sully was just enough for that film to hang its hat on -- [kids, ask your grandparents what that obsolete expression means] -- and, no surprise, that same relationship is what makes Monsters University work.
Except that the relationship here is a rivalry between Mike, the cyclops with a retainer and insecurity problems so huge that he is more 'little' than monster, and Sully, the BMOC (Big Monster on Campus) whose family is legend in the hallowed halls of academic monsterdom. The pair don't like each other from Day One. It doesn't take long for both monsters to get on the wrong side of Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), a kinda sorta winged centipede reknowned for having unleashed the Greatest Scream of All Time. The Dean carries that Scream in a cannister under her arm -- which links to a visual gag we won't spill -- that will set the Dean against our Heroes, big time.
Faced with the prospect of expulsion from the University, Mike and Sully make a deal with the dean and, with a handful of losers from the Oozma Kappa fraternity battle to win an Olympics style scare-event called the Scare Games.
Them's all the basics y'all are gonna get, writes Cranky in a sentence that wouldn't have gotten him a passing grade in fifth grade writing <g>. As with its predecessor, MU is all about Mike and Sully. Even as rivals, this time out, their relationship is better written and a lot more fun to watch than it was a dozen years ago. If we, as a parental age adult, don't really think all that much about the hoopla that surrounds the pair, well, the six-year old girl sitting on her mommy's lap next to us was bouncing up and down and cheering during the Scare Games, just of like grownups do at a real Olympics. That's good enough for us.
We stopped putting dollars rating on family films a long time ago. Either the films work for kids and their parents, each at their own levels, or they work for only one. Worse, they could be a total waste of time. A dozen years ago we were mixed on Monsters Inc. We don't have that problem now.
In the case of Monsters University we've got a whole messa thumbs pointed up . . . some are old farts like yours Cranky. Some belong to the six year old girl kidlet, sitting next to me in her mommy's lap. Mommy would have had thumbs up, too, but she was busy making sure the kidlet didn't go flying off her lap from the sheer expressive joy of an enthusiastic six year old!
Monsters University, sooner or later, will take its place on the shelf with all the other DVDs that the kids go back to on rainy days (if they've gotten tired of Playstations and X-Boxes, none of which is our concern). Right now, though, you'll get a lot more fun out of the film if you take the kidlets to a big screen and let 'em have their fill of popcorn and all the other garbage that passes for food that makes movie-going so much fun.
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