Saturday, July 20, 2013

Monster U. (Rhoades)

“Monster University”
Takes You Back
To College

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

A few months back I got invited to my old university to receive a Distinguished Alumni Award. Their mistake, probably. But I enjoyed seeing the old campus. There was the fountain. There was the student union. There was the building where I had my art history classes. There was the room where I failed trigonometry. Ah, the memories.
Walt Disney’s Pixar takes some of its popular characters back to college too. In a prequel to “Monsters, Inc.” we learn how Mike and Sulley first met, two students at … well, what did you expect it to be called? … Monster U.
“Monster University” -- the fourteenth computer-animated comedy from Pixar -- is currently matriculating audiences at the Tropic Cinema in both 2-D and 3-D.
You remember Mike and Sulley, those two lovable monsters who worked at a factory in Monstropolis that is powered by the screams of children? Mike Wazowski is a little green monster with a ball-shaped body, a single big eyeball, a wide sharp-toothed grin, and skinny arms and legs. Sulley Sullivan is a giant furry blue monster with horns and purple spots.
And they are best friends.
However, as we learn in this 10-years-earlier prequel, it wasn’t always that way. Back at college the two monsters were fierce rivals. Mike, a serious student, was just the opposite of fun-loving Sulley. Being in the same fraternity, they couldn’t help but clash.
As IMDb’s Buzz put it, “We already know that Mike and Sulley wind up being best friends, so the story of how they met could feel redundant.”
Not so.
This is mainly due to the performances of Billy Crystal (Mike) and John Goodman (Sulley). Their voices, that is.
To hear Crystal and Goodman tell it, you’d think this movie is about them.
“I have to admit, I was a little bit of a misfit,” says Billy Crystal about his college days. “I was a film-directing major at NYU – when I was really an actor and a comedian, so I was a little out of it.”
His professor was Marty Scorsese. And his classmates included Oliver Stone, Christopher Guest, and Mike McKean.
John Goodman laughs. “I ain’t never been in no college with famous people like Billy here. I was a drifter for a while. I just was desperate to fit in with a group. Really, I was swimming. I was lost, treading water, trying to find my way. I didn’t really know what I wanted until I found acting in a theater department, and then it just – everything fell into place.”

Billy Crystal nods. “Yeah, that’s how it was for me, too. Once I found a theater group, then you’re just – like a gym rat, but you’re a theater rat, and then that becomes your fraternity house. That becomes your family – extended family. I still see a lot of those people to this day because they owe me money.”
You’ll be interested in seeing how Pixar goes about “monsterizing” the college experience. Steve Buscimi returns as monstrous Randy Boggs. You’ll also hear the voices of Frank Oz, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Charlie Day, Sean Hayes, John Krasinski, Bobby Moynihan, Julia Sweeney, Bonnie Hunt, and John Ratzenberger. Almost like Saturday Night Live with lots of guests.
Billy Crystal sums up “Monster University” with this insight: “In this movie, they find out who they are. Mike has a dream, and the dream may not work out, and then he has to readjust and recalibrate. He does that with the help of his friend, who tells him who he thinks he is, and he starts to believe it himself.”
“They’re good for

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