Monsters University (2013)

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I have an enormous amount of respect for the work that Pixar’s done over the past twenty years or so, and I legitimately love many of the movies they’ve released. I think Pixar has made a number of excellent films, without any need to restrict that categorization with qualifiers like “family films” or “animated films.” Their best work exemplifies great filmmaking, whatever genre or level of mainstream appeal is involved. And “Monsters, Inc.” is one of my favorite Pixar films and, I think, one of their best.

“Monsters University” is just fine. What’s most disappointing, though, is that it never really aspires to be anything more. I wasn’t smitten with all of “Brave,” but there were elements of it with remarkable depth, and you could sense its ambition despite its failings of execution. “Monsters University” does not seem to have any interest in being anything other than a straightforward college comedy with an animated (and branded) twist. Considering it in the context of Pixar’s catalog leaves you feeling a little shortchanged. The film limits its own ability to resonate emotionally and to connect with its audience by sticking so rigidly to well-worn plot and character contrivances.

With a funny script and vibrant, gorgeous animation, “Monsters University” is an entertaining experience. But it lacks the emotional core, the sincerity, and the thematic clarity of its predecessor. I do not know what the process of creating the film was like, but the result feels slightly listless, almost like Pixar-by-numbers. The passion for the material doesn’t shine through as it had before. It’s fun, but it’s no replacement for Boo and Kitty.

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