Daily Archives: November 24, 2013

The safe pair of hands – Pixar

At some point I’m going to start writing about the movies that made me fall in love with the medium in the first place, and the films of Pixar could easily make up half a dozen entries. The Toy Story trilogy is one of the few trilogies in existence that gets as good or better with every film (see also Back to the Future, and no others), while the opening of Up is one of the most perfect 10 minutes of cinema ever made. Wall-E and Ratatouille were both excellent, and The Incredibles stands proudly alongside long-established comic book franchises as one of the finest superhero movies ever made

Occasionally, the mask slips. 2012’s Brave was a slightly by-the-numbers fairytale, and not the return to form that observers were hoping for after 2011’s Cars 2 – a merchandising opportunity with a film half-heartedly wrapped around it. So it was with high hopes but tempered expectations that I fired up Monsters University

Monsters University follows Toy Story 3 in Pixar’s new tradition of giving sequels to the films that artistically and narratively deserve them (Finding Dory is next in 2017). The fact that the two films sandwich Cars 2, a sequel apparently made for nakedly commercial reasons, means that the jury is still very much out on whether the move towards “one and a half” new films being worked on at a time is a good thing or not. And after watching Monster’s University, I must admit I’m no closer to making up my own mind

As a prequel/origin story, it basically works – we get to see Mike, Sulley and The One Played by Steve Buscemi in an unfamiliar setting, but we feel instantly at home with their characters and learn a bit more about their motivations. As a standalone plot, it also basically work – the standard ‘every sports movie ever’ template as a team of underdogs overcome various obstacles to win the big prize, BUT WITH A TWIST! The new characters, in particular Helen Mirren’s dean, are generally well-written. The computer animation is, as always, the best it’s ever been. But somehow the overall thing is less than the sum of it’s parts. The jokes aren’t as numerous or successful as you’d expect, the plot feels inconsequential, and the whole thing just kind of floats by without really leaving a lasting impression. And more than anything, you just couldn’t escape the fact that it isn’t as good as Monsters Inc., or indeed any of half a dozen other Pixar films I could mention