Monsters University – Show Versus Tell

MU, Monsters University

Monsters University is the prequel movie to Monsters Inc., which had been released almost 12 years ago. I didn’t watch that film in the cinema, but when my brother rented the DVD from Blockbuster’s for the weekend (yes, people used to rent physical DVDs in brick and mortar stores in the past), my baby brother watched it non-stop all weekend long. I’d pop around now and then, the movie would play, and I’d sit and watch. I estimate I watched it about 3 complete times that weekend, and I don’t tend to rewatch films in close proximity.

The above is basically me saying that I think Monsters Inc. was something special, a movie you could rewatch time and time again, a movie which had a really good emotional backbone (Boo was so good). They waited quite a bit before they’ve released this latest movie. I think it was a solid movie, but it’s not really a successor to Monsters Inc., and the setting is almost immaterial.

We meet Sully and Mike before they are friends, as they embark on the road to become Scarers in Monsters University. What follows is a regular run of the mill opposites become friend, underdogs rising to the top, how much are you willing to give up for success – a regular story of friendship and attempting to achieve your goals. The jokes are alright but not hilarious, and there are special effects, some special moments, and a general setting that tells you you’re in the same universe as Monsters Inc. – but on the whole, this movie could’ve just as easily belonged to any other franchise.

The craftsmanship of this movie is good, it hits all the moments it should, it follows the normal arc plotted for a movie of this genre, it’s cute, it’s funny, it’s touching at parts – but it’s too par the course. It’s a perfect movie to watch during the summer or take children to, but my issue with it is that I’ve watched this film in a dozen different variations and permutations before, and the added “Monsters” vibe wasn’t enough to give it enough extra.

Now, this being a “Things I Like” post I’ll use the movie to cover a trio of ideas it has, some which the movie simply tells us, and others it actually shows: two of them are at the forefront of the real-world scare scene at the end of the movie, two of them are actually told us, rather than shown.

“Teamwork” – very common moral, we’re told during the movie that we’ll need to have teamwork, and the movie even concludes with Sully calling Mike “Coach”. Mike and Sully each think they can do it on their own – Sully due to being a “natural”, and then they have to not only work with one another, but they have to help their weak and pathetic comrades – because in the team game they’re judged by the slowest, not the fastest. One for all, and all for one!

“There’s no right shape” – or differences are a-ok runs as an undercurrent to the whole show, and in case you miss it they take you to the scare-floor and tell you this. This is a moral that is at the heart of almost any underdog story. This also connects us to the previous point – had there not been a need to bring the rest of the guys into the mix and succeed as a team, they wouldn’t have “realized” that everyone has their own way of doing things, and that it’s alright.

The final message, that fittingly for this message specifically is shown to us and not really said out loud much is “It takes build-up”, the scare of the adults worked, and yielded so much because it was built up, and built up… most scares conclude quite quickly, because you just want to move to the next one, but this scare, and the transformation of the characters in the movie is a process, and a process takes time.
Mike had to learn, because he has very little talent, but Sully as well – talent is not enough, and you have to build up on it in order to be at the top. Nothing is free, nothing is instantaneous, and that also ties the previous two points together – it’s a process, and it’s worth it.

Conclusion: I give this movie 7/10 Summer Screams, it’s a perfectly enjoyable and serviceable movie, aimed mostly at children, but didn’t really need to be part of the Monsters Inc. franchise, it’s a story that’s told well, even if we’ve seen it many times before.

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