My 11-year-old son and I have been talking about the “Monsters, Inc.” sequel for months — just like we are now speculating about a possible “Incredibles 2” (director Brad Bird told the Hollywood Reporter that it might happen).
Because so many Pixar films have knocked me on my rear end with their clever dialogue, storylines and edgy commentary on real life, my expectations of every new movie are grossly unfair. Despite my yawning during “Cars 2” and lack of desire to ever revisit “A Bug’s Life,” I believe that Pixar has never made a stinker. A bad Pixar movie is usually better or on the same tier as a good animated feature from the other studios (remember Jerry Seinfeld’s Bee Movie?).
So it is with a heavy heart that I report that “Monsters University” didn’t rise to the occasion for me. Sure, I smirked at some of the satirical references to college orientation and dorm room culture. I even enjoyed some of the back stories about Randall the evil chameleon, Roz the human resources spy, and how Mike and Sulley got from MU to the heights of corporate monsterdom.
But for the most part, I thought was watching a predictable remake of “Revenge of the Nerds,” the 1980s franchise about the cool fraternities and sororities vs. the geeks. While watching “Monsters University,” I thought it was a straight ripoff, but after a bit of Googling and finding Billy Crystal’s 2012 interview with Entertainment Weekly, it is clear that the movie is a tribute or at least a loving knockoff of the original.
And hey, since most kids in the theaters today have never heard of “Revenge of the Nerds,” only a small portion of the audience thinks the plot is predictable.
So in my humble opinion, “Monsters University” gets lost in the Pixar scrum. It’s not their best work, but far from their worst. I don’t regret shelling out real movie theater money (we snuck in the Gobstoppers and Twizzlers to stay within budget), but I wouldn’t pop the movie into my DVD player for a second screening.
Here’s my overall grading for Pixar’s entire body of work. The movies with “A’s” and above are ones that I can watch on endless loop. I will never get sick of them. Ever. The reason that Toy Story “only” gets an “A” is because I was blown away by how much more enjoyable both sequels were for different reasons.
That never happens. Which is why I had held out hope that Monsters University would repeat the pattern.
DARREN’S PIXAR REPORT CARD
The Incredibles – A+ (Will watch this a million times.)
Monsters Inc – A+ (Brilliant parody of the work world.)
Toy Story 3 – A+ (Diabolical and cuddly Lotso Bear steals the show.)
Toy Story 2 – A+ (Makes fun of obsessive and joyless toy collectors.)
Toy Story 1 – A (Made me nostalgic about my old Star Wars figures.)
Finding Nemo – B+ (Fun, but why does Nemo’s Mom have to die?)
Cars – B+ (Love the Route 66 story, but drags on too long for kids.)
WALL-E – B (Amazing art & obesity subplot, but makes “Cars” seem fast.)
Up – B (Someone needs to invent those talking dog collars.)
Ratatouille – B (Rats don’t belong in restaurants – even talking rats.)
Monsters University – B (I did LOVE the original “Revenge of the Nerds.”)
A Bugs Life – C (Don’t remember the difference between this and “Antz.”)
Cars 2 – C- (This movie was made solely to sell toys.)
Brave – N/A (Haven’t seen it yet, but want to because Princess Merida was very sweet with my daughter.)
I didn’t realize this until later, but John Goodman, the voice of Sulley, was also the boisterous football coach from “Revenge of the Nerds.” Too bad that Pixar didn’t reserve any voiceover work for Ted McGinley, the so-called “Patron Saint of Jumping the Shark.”
One plus side that I see for Disney: New Monster characters and Monster photo-ops for Pixarland.
Could a Monsters Sorority Dance Party be in the works?
What’s your favorite and least favorite Pixar movie of all time? How would you rank the movies on your Pixar Report Card?