Sunday, July 21, 2013

Monster U. (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Monsters University

Summer is here and that means a sumptuous and colorful Pixar film in state of the art 3D, with none of those blurry red and blue traces from old fashioned 3D. Your eyes and heart will delight in "Monsters University," directed by Dan Scanlon, the creative force behind "Brave" which played earlier at the Tropic.

In this prequel to "Monsters, Inc," we revisit Mike (Billy Crystal) the lovable but anxious green monster who is literally a giant M&M with one big eye. Six year old Mike wants to grow up to be a "scarer." In this monster world, the screams of children provide the energy needed to power their multiple-eyed society and  resident little monsters hopefully make it to college to learn how to frighten kids and coerce the most potent screams. After all, this is a kids' film but there is enough belly laughs for goth grown ups.

Mike dreams of getting to Monsters U and being a grade a frightener. He enters as a freshman and constantly has to prove himself. Billy Crystal is terrific in his character ridden with self doubt. He completely embodies his ambitious Aargh-meister, as if he were an actual human being. Steve Buscemi returns as Randall who is entertaining too, as Mike's slippery snake roommate. John Goodman also reprises his role as the voice of Sully, Mike's rival, who resembles a parti-colored Abominable Snowman with a bloodcurdling roar. I have to admit, though, that Helen Mirren upstages everyone as Abigail Hardscrabble, the school dean, who is an imperious but oddly likable creature: a winged serpent reminiscent of Dante's Inferno and Mary Poppins. And, for  those of us who enjoy "Saturday Night Live," Bobby Moniyhan plays an opposing frat brother along with Charlie Day  (It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia) who looks like a fuzzy letter C.

The film possesses a solid score by Disney veteran Randy Newman which mimic the pop art visuals.

The joy of this episode is its liveliness, its color and its quirky rambling tone. The story never takes itself too seriously and Billy Crystal infuses his character with feel good warmth and a very human spirit.

"Monsters  University" has a charming  irreverence containing several wise asides for adults while mildly lampooning many scare flicks. In the process, it introduces a bit of psychology into what makes us, as humans, afraid. The tale is sunnily subversive at its core with its depiction of children as toxic and easily scared fleshy things. Here, it is the monsters who have dominion, while young children are mere groundlings, almost something to be pitied.

But fear not, there is no eerie heaviness or nevermore drear in this Crayola crayon bestiary. "Monsters University" is a light and airy primer, ruled for kids, rampant in abundance with some impish and manic titters.

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