Heartwarming Monsters in a class of its own
MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (PG)
PIXAR rarely gets it wrong (okay, maybe Cars 2 was not such a great idea) and, in Monsters University, it fires on all cylinders and then some.
The film is preceded by The Blue Umbrella, an original short film that is both creative and sublime.
Capturing the magic and insanity of the monster world, this film recounts Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. "Sulley" Sullivan's (John Goodman) university days, when the former was a bullied but determined monster aiming to get into Scaring School, while the latter was a popular beast coasting on his scary looks and family legacy.
Exploring friendships, animosity and good old American fraternisation, director Dan Scanlon skilfully navigates the sheer number of characters and drives home the importance of friendship without seeming preachy.
This film reminded me of the Harry Potter series in many ways, not least the fearsome Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), who is a dead ringer for Professor McGonagall.
While the journey the characters undertake may have been a tad cliched, the strong voice work, brilliant animation and airtight plot will make this film a sure-fire hit with families.
Indeed, the scenes from a Scaring Tournament that Mike and Sulley participate in are among the best animation sequences I have seen in some time; 3-D is utilised to great effect in the film, as shown by the incredible production design.
As is typical of a Pixar production, the numerous writers managed to subvert genres ingeniously, this time of horror themes.
This includes the motto of the Scarers that states: "We scare because we care."
In fact, the university setting is perfect for highlighting the various shenanigans that the monsters get up to.
While the American college stereotypes are in full force here, I found it humorous because, if anything, the film sends the message that being book-smart is cool.
Smart, funny and full of heart, Pixar delivers a prequel that manages to be in the same league as the original instalment.
Monsters University opens in cinemas tomorrow.