Monsters University made me happy…

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YAY!!  I will admit that I was worried.  The last two Pixar films have been mediocre–by their standards–and I was not sure how well a prequel would work.  I loved Monsters, Inc. and I am still amazed by its creativity and unique premise–could they capture the magic again?  Well, the answer is yes…yes, they could.  Monsters University is clever, original, funny and yet, with the tender heart and emotional core you’ve come to expect from Pixar.  And although I will not rank it in my top 5 Pixar films–they have met the challenge–beautifully.

Now, this story is not connected to the original–the characters have yet to evolve to that point and the events of that film are far from happening–so, the story has to stand alone and led into that time period.  This time, Mike Wazowski (my favorite) gets the character attention.  They focus on Mike and James P. Sullivan’s introduction and how their relationship evolves while attending MU–it is great knowing how it all turns out in the end–it adds something sweet to story–you know?  This premise allows for a whole new crop of characters and all sorts of college high jinks.  The parallels to our own human college experience are hilarious and the small troupe of misfits in the fraternity Oozma Kappa are all  lovable and charming.

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Billy Crystal was born to play Wazowski and he shines here–this is Mike’s story and Crystal bares the burden easily.  John Goodman is perfect as Sully (again) and I appreciated how he made Sullivan feel and sound younger.  The OK members are all perfectly cast–Sean Hayes and Dave Foley as Terri and Terry–Peter Sohn and Joel Murray as Squishy and Don–but my all out favorite is Charlie Day‘s Art!!  OMG! LOVE HIM!  Here is a random treat…

Monsters University – A Performance By “Art” – YouTube

All the voice talent is top-notch!  Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble is a bit intimidating and her character design is pretty cool.  And I love that Steve Buscemi‘s Randall is included–so great!

The intricate world of Monstropolis is expanded and they are able to capture all its charm.  I need to watch it a few more times to catch all the little, funny details in the background (loved that about Pixar!).  The character designs are amazing!  If you were impressed with Sully’s extraordinary hair–wait until you see Art’s fur!!  But, as always it is the soul that they are able to convey that continues to be their greatest achievement.

OH!  Before I forget!  Make sure to go early because the Pixar Short this time is AMAZING!!  It is The Blue Umbrella by Saschka Unseld (I am excited to see more from him) and the animation is incredible–looks so real it is mind-boggling.  And what they are able to accomplish with just some animated eyes and a mouth!  It’s a wonderful addition to their short library.  Check out this clip:  The Blue Umbrella

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Written by Monsters, Inc. scribes Daniel Gerson and Robert Baird the new narrative is consistent with these characters and they feel familiar and right.  Director Dan Scanlon did a fine job with the pacing and made smart choices with what could have been typical plot devices.  I enjoyed the unexpected directions and especially loved the ending–a great nod to accountability and real consequences–but also about having faith and working hard to achieve your dreams.  Being that this is his first big feature to direct–I am looking forward to what he does next.   And I need to mention Randy Newman‘s score, which is perfect and added to the feel of the film.

Obviously, I loved my time at Monsters University!  I laughed.  I awed.  I choked up.  I was moved.  I smiled.  Yup.  That’s a good Pixar experience–maybe not the best in their library but definitely better than the last two–which is hopeful for future projects.

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MIKE WAZOWSKI!!  😀

 

Wreck-It Ralph is a new Disney Classic!

Theatrical release poster depicting the protagonist, Ralph, along with various video game characters

You know how I go on about lack of original ideas?  Well…Wreck-It Ralph is proof that it still exists.  It is one of the most clever, original stories I’ve ever seen.  It may have familiar themes, but in execution it is all creative and awesome! 😀  I loved it.

Before I jump into Ralph, I must begin with the animated short that runs in front of the featured attraction…Paperman.  It is truly a beautiful mixture of hand drawn and CG images and 100% brilliant.  Do not be late–it is worth the extra minutes.

Okay.  Animation is powerful.  You can use it to tell stories that would be impossible to tell in live action and it also ups the ante on possibilities.  W-IR takes full advantage of this and creates a world that only animation could capture–the video game world. It is rich and full of tiny details that only helps to sell the entire universe.  (Side note: Children will love the colorful images and understand the narrative, but adults will relish every game reference and classic character cameo, too.)

Writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston (with story help from John C. Reilly) focus on classic themes of loneliness, isolation, rejection and self-image but they wrap it in a unique package–a 10 foot tall 64-bit video game villain, with “freakishly big hands” and an annoying little girl with candy stuck in her hair.  Director Rich Moore makes all the right choices.  The pace is quick and tight (never a dull moment) and he cleverly allows Ralph to evolve organically, while staying true to his nature.

The voice cast is perfect.  John C. Reilly is Ralph.  His intonations and inflections just fit.  Sarah Silverman (who I usually do not care for) is wonderful as Vanellope.  Jane Lynch hits it out of the park and Jack McBrayer‘s typical one-note character (sorry…but he is) actually works here.

What elevates Wreck-It Ralph from the standard kids movie is its attention to more than just funny gags and clever cameos.  It tells a real human story.  A story about what it is like to be without a home and trying to identify who you are.  There were a few moments that choked me up a bit and others that had me laughing out loud. The social media keeps saying that Disney has finally put out a Pixar quality film and I may have to agree with them.

Wreck-It Ralph will stick with you–for all the right, wonderful reasons!  And yeah…I am going to see it again!

Wreck-It Ralph Trailer