Thoughts on Monsters University:
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After seeing Cars 2 and Brave, I think I was in denial of having seen a less than great Pixar film, and thus gave them more glowing reviews than either deserved. So I'll say it right now, Monsters University wasn't great like the movies on Pixar's pre-Cars 2 resume. That said, I thought it was a significant step up from Brave - which was a significant step up from Cars 2.
I'll get the bad out of the way first. This movie did not have the humour of the first one. Monsters Inc had a really unique humour that still cracks me up... but it just wasn't in this one. Mike and Sully's great comedic timing in the first movie wasn't nearly as effective as this one. I blame this largely on the change of directors, because similar things often happen when a director is changed (e.g. Shrek the Third). Because of this Monsters University never really felt like it was in the same world as the first. If they had gotten Pete Doctor back as director, I think Monsters University could have been great.
But humour isn't everything. This movie had the best character development I've seen in a Pixar movie in a while (probably since Up). I was a bit taken aback by the personalities they gave Mike and Sulley at the beginning of the movie, but by the end I could really see them growing into the Mike and Sully of Monsters Inc. I really liked the message of this movie as well. So many "kid's movies" (Pixar calls their movies "everyone movies" but you know what I mean) give you the impression that if you want something bad enough you can get or acheive anything, but we all know that's baloney. Some things you just aren't cut out for, but it doesn't mean you can't find happiness and fulfillment in other places.
I'm also really happy that Pixar stuck to their guns and avoided hidden adult humour (especially considering this is a college movie!).
It had a really strong start and a really strong ending, but I thought the middle dragged a little bit. I watched Monsters Inc the morning after seeing Monsters University and I have to say, even though Monsters University never really recaptured the feel or magic of the first one, it did add extra depth to Monsters Inc, which is what a good prequel should do.
And of course, I can't finish this review without talking about The Blue Umbrella (the short film attached to Monster University). It wasn't quite photorealistic, but it was darn close. Really amazing animation. Pixar has this year's Best Animated Short in the bag.
Where sky and water meet,
Where the waves grow sweet,
Doubt not, Reepicheep,
To find all you seek,
There is the utter east.