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Article by Teddy Durgin

'Monsters University' Scares Up Some Laughs and Warm-Hearted Nostalgia

I don't mind telling you, I was pretty tight going into my recent preview screening of "Monsters University." You see, "Monsters Inc." is my all-time favorite Pixar movie. I love it. I think it's one of the most clever premises of all time - the monsters of our childhood are real and they use our closet doors as portals to harvest kids' screams to power their world. The original film did a great job of NOT making that premise scary. And in the end, the great discovery was that children's laughter and happiness was infinitely MORE powerful than their screams and fear. But after the brilliant "Toy Story 3," Pixar kind of lost some of its groove for me. "Cars 2" seemed like a naked cash grab, a film set up just to sell some pretty awful merchandise. Then came last summer's "Brave," which I thought was just unnecessarily traumatizing to kids. Yeah, it won the Oscar. But my opinion is right. The Pixar animators became the scarers on that one! Thankfully, I am happy to report that "Monsters U" is a return to form for this great animation studio. It will never be mentioned up there with the company's classics like "Finding Nemo," the "Toy Story" trilogy, and "Up." But the heart is there, as is the humor and the attention to character and visual detail. I watched the whole thing with a smile on my face. It's interesting to see how Mike (voice of Billy Crystal) and Sully (voice of John Goodman) met and became friends. Things don't happen and progress the way you think they do. These two have to learn to be friends, they have to learn to appreciate differences, and they also have to learn the value of teamwork when they are paired with other "misfit" monsters. Whereas the first film was essentially a workplace comedy, this prequel is a campus comedy. Mike and Sully go to the college of the film's title to learn to become "scarers." So, there are monster fraternities to pledge, monster games to compete in, and monster classes to attend. They run afoul of the college's strict dean (wonderfully animated and voiced by Helen Mirren) and are forced to confront such issues as cheating and bullying. Best of all, this is the first G rated movie since last August. It's great for kids, wonderful for families, and will also delight those who were kids 12 years ago when the original "Monsters Inc." came out and want to feel that nostalgic kick as they prepare for college or to go out into the world in real life. Yeah, I was scared going into this one. Thankfully, the good folks at Pixar soothed my fears and once again delivered great entertainment!

"Monsters University" is rated G.


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