Monsters University (2013)

(On Cable TV, June 2014) No one really demanded a prequel to Monsters Inc, and the fact that Pixar delivered one anyway is yet another cautionary item in the growing list of why the studio had gone from great to merely good. Still, for all of the mixed expectations surrounding the film and the somewhat generic nature of the end product, there’s no use denying that Monsters University is a high-energy, high-concept, high-budget film, carefully plotted and attentively executed with an astonishing amount of near-imperceptible detail. Coming off as I did from an extended diet of low-budget films, it feels like a breath of fresh air and a reaffirmation of the possibilities of imaginative cinema. Oh, all right: Monsters University isn’t that good. It curiously adopts a college-film plot template in a film destined to older kids, presents set-pieces that are a bit scattered, suffers from a drawn-out ending, and doesn’t quite get full marks on the “Revenge of the Nerds” frat comedy character interest scale. On the other hand, well, the money shows: the animation is as good as any other animated movie so far, with the cartoonish nature of its creatures only enhanced by the photorealism of the background. The universe of the first film is expanded coherently, and the lead character work is just fine. As damning as it is, Monsters University apes one of its lead characters by being technically proficient but not quite fully invested emotionally. It’s a pleasant disappointment, a fun but ultimately forgettable piece of entertainment. It’s all well and good to stay in business and generate merchandising opportunities for monster-corporation Disney, but Pixar hasn’t become the dominant animation studio by taking the easy way forward. Is it now happier just delivering the expected?

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