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Movie Review: 'Monsters University'

Monsters University is a charming film about succeeding in life and trying your best.

Perry Chen at Monsters University Press Screening (photo by Zhu Shen).

4 Starfish out of 5.

As a kid, have you ever thought that there were monsters lurking in your closet, or under your bed? What if you knew that those monsters are real, and live in a separate world powered by the screams of children? In this strange and colorful world much like our own, monsters are highly trained to capture and contain the valuable screams of children. Many of them learn all that they need to know from the prestigious Monsters University, a university that teaches various skills, such as how to be scary, and how to design cans to collect screams.

One particular monster named Mike Wazowski has made it his lifelong dream to become a professional scarer. As he put in his own words, “Everything in my life has led up to this one moment”. But, his physical features are far from fearsome, being one large eyeball with tiny green arms and legs, and no fearsome fangs, claws, or spikes.  Mike works hard and acts as the teacher’s pet, while another student: James P. Sullivan, or “Sulley,” as he is called by his friends, a hairy blue ogre-ish student who has never had to work hard in his life because his famous father who was a legend at Monsters, Inc.

But, after flunking the scare program and being kicked out by Hardscrabble, the Dean of the program, Mike makes a wager with her that if he wins the annual school-wide “Scare Game” competition with a team, he gets to go back in the scare program; but, if he doesn’t, he and his team would get expelled. Will Mike and his team win it all? Find out in the new Pixar film, Monsters University.

Mike’s team is a group of colorful characters, none of which look a bit scary, including Squishy, a soft, pink-colored monster with multiple eyeballs; Don Carlton, a chubby purple monster with a mustache that looks like a bat wing and tentacles in his arms; Terry and Terri Perry, the two-headed monster, and Art, the flexible, purple monster.  But their talents are not so impressive.

Monsters University campus is full of statues of monsters.  The roofs of buildings are lined with back spikes of monsters, some of the doorways have horns. One building even has teeth on it!  All the trees are multi-colored, like the rainbow.  Other than these, Monsters University looks just like a typical college campus.

Monsters University is a charming film about succeeding in life and trying your best. Sulley, the star of Monsters, Inc also co-stars in this movie, except in Monsters University, Mike is the Main character, while he was deuteragonist in Monsters, Inc. Mike’s personality is comical, but he thinks like a master strategist, and always has a plan. That is quite impressive, since his massive eyeball leaves little room for a brain in his skull.

The movie’s animation and visuals are incredible, especially since every monster has to have its own individual and unique character design. The character’s features tell much about their personality, especially Dean Hardscrabble, a new character. She has a stern, hard face with spikes on her skull, dragon wings, and the lower body of a centipede, and walks by scuttling around on the floor with her countless legs in an undulating fashion. I read on the wiki that she was originally going to be male, and would yell and scream a lot, but the filmmakers decided to make her a female because she was more scary that way. The storyline was interesting and unpredictable, always making me wonder, what will happen next? The plot has surprising twists, especially near the conclusion, which is for you to find out.

This movie has some flaws.  Dean Hardscrabble has been always doubtful of Mike’s ability to scare, even at the last round of the tournament.  So it was surprising she didn’t question a very shocking outcome.  Also, near the end of the film, Mike and Sulley entered a door to the human world, and the door was deemed hazardous and off-limits. The authorities said that no monster was allowed past a certain line, but, Dean Hardscrabble still stayed with the door even after it was closed off and barred. The flaw is that even she shouldn’t have been let past the barrier.

There were also many references to Monsters, Inc, such as repeated characters and scenes. For example, Roz, a character that appeared in both movies says the same line to Mike, “I’m watching you Wazowski…always watching”. After watching Monsters Inc one more time, I think the original is still better than the prequel.  The storyline for Monsters, Inc. is fresher and more charming, like all the older Pixar movies such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo and Up. I met and interviewed all 3 directors of Monsters Inc, Pete Docter, David Silverman, and Lee Unkrich for their later films, Up, Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare", and Toy Story 3. I give Monsters University 4 starfish.

In conclusion, Monsters University is an intriguing, decent prequel to Monsters Inc. and showed that even monsters struggle with their college lives. The film would appeal to kids 5 and up.  For adults, I think they will probably like Monsters Inc. better.

Moral: If you use your unique talents, you can accomplish anything.

Copyright 2013 By Perry S. Chen


About Perry Chen:

Perry S. Chen is a 12-year-old award-winning child film critic,artist, animator, TEDx speaker, and entertainment personality, currentlyin 7th grade from San Diego.  He started reviewing movies at age 8 in 3rd grade using a kid-friendly starfish rating system, and has beenfeatured in CBS, NPR, NBC, CNN, CCTV (China Central Television),Variety, Animation Magazine, The Young Icons, The Guardian, TheChina Press, etc.  He was a presenter at the 2010 Annie AwardsforAnimation, and has written movie reviews for AnimationWorldNetwork, San Diego Union Tribune, Amazing Kids! Magazine,and hisown Perry’s Previews blog.

Perry is currently writing, animating, and directing his mostpersonal film to date, “Changyou’s Journey,” produced by his mom Dr. ZhuShen, about his beloved father Dr. Changyou Chen, a cancerresearcher who passed away in July 2012 from terminal cancer after along, brave battle, please watch trailer and donate to supportPerry’s animation film: