Saying that Pixar Animations output has been disappointing lately is like complaining that Michelangelo didnt paint the Sistine Chapel every time he picked up a brush.
By LOEY LOCKERBY
Special to The Star
The company has set the bar so high, anything less than a masterpiece just seems wrong. Brave and Cars 2 may not have been up to standards, but try comparing them to most of what passes for family entertainment.
With Monsters University, Pixar doesnt need to be graded on a curve anymore. This prequel to the 2001 hit Monsters, Inc. is as clever and fully realized as its predecessor, if not quite as original.
Essentially, this is a monster-themed cross between Harry Potter and Revenge of the Nerds, with tiny green go-getter Mike Wazowski (voiced again by Billy Crystal) beginning his career at the title institution. He works harder than anyone, but as the intimidating dean (Helen Mirren) points out, hes just not scary.
Determined to prove himself, Mike joins an outcast fraternity, and enlists the help of the arrogant, reckless Jim Sully Sullivan (John Goodman) to win a college-wide scaring competition.
Its fun to see the antagonistic beginnings of the lovable duos friendship (think Kirk and Spock in the Star Trek reboot, with more slime). Crystal and Goodman slip right back into character like the pros they are, and there are plenty of other recognizable voices behind the pixels, including returning ones like Steve Buscemi (as lizard Randy) and studio regular John Ratzenberger in a cameo as the Yeti.
Director Dan Scanlon offers up some terrific scenes, especially when the big contest takes over the already visually inventive campus. The climactic adventure that sets up Mike and Sullys future is funny, a little scary and absolutely spectacular. In other words, exactly what weve come to expect.
Monsters University is at least 20 minutes too long, as Scanlon shoehorns four or five acts into an otherwise very simple story about teamwork, honesty and humility.
The 3-D looks nice, but its not really essential these animators dont need extra help to immerse the audience. That ability has always been the greatest strength of Pixars films, in any dimension.