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As a kid, have you ever thought that there were monsters lurking in your closet, or under your bed? What if you knew that those monsters are real, and live in a separate world powered by the screams of children? In this strange and colorful world much like our own, monsters are highly trained to capture and contain the valuable screams of children. Many of them learn all that they need to know from the prestigious “Monsters’ University”, a university that teaches various skills, such as how to be scary, and how to design cans to collect screams.
One particular monster named Mike Wazowski has made it his lifelong dream to become a professional scarer. As he put in his own words, “Everything in my life has led up to this one moment”. But, his physical features are far from fearsome, being one large eyeball with tiny green arms and legs, and no fearsome fangs, claws, or spikes. Mike works hard and acts as the teacher’s pet, while another student, James P. Sullivan, or “Sulley,” as he is called by his friends, a hairy blue ogre-ish student who has never had to work hard in his life because his famous father who was a legend at Monsters Inc.
But, after flunking the scare program and being kicked out by Hardscrabble, the Dean of the program, Mike makes a wager with her that if he wins the annual school-wide “Scare Game” competition with a team, he gets to go back in the scare program; but, if he doesn’t, he and his team would get expelled. Will Mike and his team win it all? Find out in the new Pixar film, “Monsters University.”
Mike’s team is a group of colorful characters, none of which look a bit scary, including Squishy, a soft, pink-colored monster with multiple eyeballs; Don Carlton, a chubby purple monster with a mustache that looks like a bat wing and tentacles in his arms; Terry and Terri Perry, the two-headed monster, and Art, the flexible, purple monster. But their talents are not so impressive.
Monsters University campus is full of statues of monsters. The roofs of buildings are lined with back spikes of monsters, some of the doorways have horns. One building even has teeth on it! All the trees are multi-colored, like the rainbow. Other than these, Monsters University looks just like a typical college campus.
Monsters University is a charming film about succeeding in life and trying your best. Sulley, the star of “Monsters Inc” also co-stars in this movie, except in “Monsters University”, Mike is the Main character, while he was deuteragonist in “Monsters Inc”. Mike’s personality is comical, but he thinks like a master strategist, and always has a plan. That is quite impressive, since his massive eyeball leaves little room for a brain in his skull.
The movie’s animation and visuals are incredible, especially since every monster has to have its own individual and unique character design. The character’s features tell much about their personality, especially Dean Hardscrabble, a new character. She has a stern, hard face with spikes on her skull, dragon wings, and the lower body of a centipede, and walks by scuttling around on the floor with her countless legs in an undulating fashion. I read on the wiki that she was originally going to be male, and would yell and scream a lot, but the filmmakers decided to make her a female because she was more scary that way. The storyline was interesting and unpredictable, always making me wonder, what will happen next? The plot has surprising twists, especially near the conclusion, which is for you to find out.
This movie has some flaws. Dean Hardscrabble has been always doubtful of Mike’s ability to scare, even at the last round of the tournament. So it was surprising she didn’t question a very shocking outcome. Also, near the end of the film, Mike and Sulley entered a door to the human world, and the door was deemed hazardous and off-limits. The authorities said that no monster was allowed past a certain line, but, Dean Hardscrabble still stayed with the door even after it was closed off and barred. The flaw is that even she shouldn’t have been let past the barrier.
There were also many references to Monsters Inc, such as repeated characters and scenes. For example, Roz, a character that appeared in both movies says the same line to Mike, “I’m watching you Wazowski…always watching”. After watching Monsters Inc one more time, I think the original is still better than the prequel. The storyline for Monsters Inc. is fresher and more charming, like all the older Pixar movies such as “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo” and “Up.” I met and interviewed all 3 directors of Monsters Inc, Pete Docter, David Silverman, and Lee Unkrich for their later films, “Up,” “Maggie Simpson in the Longest Daycare,” and “Toy Story 3.” I give “Monsters University” 4 starfish.
In conclusion, Monsters University is an intriguing, decent prequel to Monsters Inc. and showed that even monsters struggle with their college lives. The film would appeal to kids 5 and up. For adults, I think they will probably like Monsters Inc. better.
Moral: If you use your unique talents, you can accomplish anything.
Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning film/ entertainment critic & animator, artist, speaker, and entertainment personality. He started writing movie reviews at 8 using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, under the guidance of his mom Dr. Zhu Shen and his 3rd grade teacher Ms. Harris. Perry’s debut on the CBS Evening News in 2009 made him a national sensation. He has been featured extensively on local, national, and international media, including NPR, Fox, CNN, NBC, The Guardian, The China Press, and many more. He has interviewed prominent filmmakers at film festivals, red carpet premieres, and press junkets. He won a prestigious “Excellence in Journalism Award” at the San Diego Press Club in 2010 as its youngest member. Perry currently writes movie reviews for the Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine, and his own Perry’s Previews website with a combined readership of over 2 million worldwide. Perry and his family live in the community of Carmel Valley San Diego.
Dr. Zhu Shen’s love for the movies started when she was a young girl, growing up in China during the Cultural Revolution where watching movies was the only entertainment available to the masses. Her journey to become a filmmaker took a convoluted path. She studied medicine at Peking Union Medical College before coming to the US and earning a Ph.D. in biochemistry from University of Colorado, and then an MBA from Cornell University’s Johnson School. She is a producer of the upcoming documentary feature “Average Joe on the Raw,” about journey into raw food and health. Dr. Shen is also an award-winning biotech executive, author, speaker, China business expert featured on national and trade media including CBS, Fox, Business Week, Pharmaceutical Executive, and more. She has worked at IBM, Bayer, Chiron, Immusol, and is the CEO of BioForesight, consulting on cross-Pacific life science business. *Photos of Perry Chen and Zhu Shen by Brian Bostrom.