The first prequel to a previous Pixar hit, Monsters University is a fun romp, but it sacrifices originality for the warm familiarity of not only some much-loved characters but also a story which holds few surprises and travels a pretty predictable course. That’s not to say that the humor and heart that the studio is famous for are missing in the movie; they are present in spades, but don’t expect the film to go in any directions you’re not already thoroughly familiar with.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC, 1080P/MVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 44 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copykeep case with leaves inside a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 10/29/2013
Having dreamed of becoming a scarer almost his entire life, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) arrives at Monsters University raring to dive into his studies. The Scare curriculum is the school’s most demanding academic track and not everyone makes it thanks to a demanding screening process set up by the school’s administrator Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). Descended from a long line of scary monsters, James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) knows he’ll make it without even trying hard, so he’s astonished when he, along with Mike, washes out of the program quickly. Their one chance of reentry is to team up with four others who haven’t made it and enter the Scare Games, an annual event whose winning team is guaranteed a spot in the program. But with the sweet-natured monsters like Squishy (Peter Sohn), Don (Joel Murray), Terri/Terry (Sean Hayes/Dave Foley) and Art (Charlie Day) as their teammates, things don’t look good for the Oozma Kappa (their fraternity) members facing off against the fierce Roar Omega Roars headed by the BMOC Johnny (Nathan Fillion).
The Production Rating: 4/5
The cool and lame fraternities, the competition to establish the most frightening frat or sorority (yes, Monsters University is co-ed), the ambience of campus life with dorms and frat parties and freshmen orientation are all much expected but nevertheless beautifully rendered in this terrifically animated yarn. There aren’t really many surprises here, but the abundance of invention in the creation of the university is still mighty impressive, and the return of Mike and Sully along with Randy (Steve Buscemi) from the previous Monsters film gives the movie a grounded feel that is like putting on a pair of comfortable old shoes. Plot wise (script by Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, and director Dan Scanlon), the contest goes pretty much according to Hoyle, there are the expected hurt feelings and sense of betrayals before bonding occurs (knowing the relationship between Sully and Mike from the first film kind of dissipates any suspense their friction in the movie might have), and the film’s denouement is pleasing but not unexpected. There is one really great sequence in the picture when Mike and Sully finally bond as a unit – a scene where the pair is trapped in the human world and must work together to escape – that’s really sensationally conceived and animated. In fact, even though the film runs a longish 1 ¾ hours, this segment might have been expanded a bit for even greater effect as the duo sets up a summer camp scare scene that might have been in any Friday the 13thmovie.
The voice cast is superb as always. Billy Crystal is less wisecracking in his younger incarnation here and is more vulnerable and, thus, more appealing. John Goodman’s Sully has the brashness of a winner who then gets taken down a few pegs when he experiences failure making him additionally exposed to new feelings of inadequacy that are fresh. Helen Mirren is threateningly starchy and domineering as the headmistress of the university. The group of adorable losers voiced by Charlie Day, Dave Foley, Sean Hayes, Joel Murray, and Peter Sohn all grow on the viewer as the movie runs. Nathan Fillion has the braggadocio down pat as campus big shot Johnny.
The film has been framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the MVC (for 3D) and AVC (for 2D) codecs. Sharpness that reveals tremendous amounts of detail in all that rendered fur and other surfaces, color brilliance with no blooming, and contrast consistency levels are, of course, reference quality as they almost always are for Pixar products. Black levels are deliciously inky, and there is no banding in sight. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: 4/5
As with Pixar’s other 3D-rendered films, the 3D offers rich depth to the images (a pan down from the sky allowing us to see the university campus for the first time is a staggeringly detailed shot in 3D), and the animators have placed their characters and sets interestingly across their screen canvas. There are occasional fingers in the face or scream canisters which come momentarily hurling toward the viewer, but forward projection is used rather miserly which has been typical with Pixar's 3D efforts. There is no annoying crosstalk at all with the imagery.
The Dolby TrueHD 7.1 sound mix is another reference quality effort from Pixar’s stupendous sound engineers. They keep the available channels alive almost constantly with ambient sounds whether it’s the subtlety of nature sounds in the distance at night or the cheers at the Scare Games emanating from a variety of front and rear speakers. There is some directionalized dialogue, too, though most of the talking comes from the center channel. Randy Newman’s engaging score gets a wonderful spread through the entire soundstage.
Audio Rating: 5/5
The Blue Umbrella (6:46, 3D, HD): the lovely short animated feature which preceded the film in theaters.
Special Features Rating: 4.5/5
Audio Commentary: director Dan Scanlon, producer Kori Rae, and story supervisor Kelsey Mann offer a very engaging discussion on the making of the film. Unlike other commentaries whose content gets repeated in the disc’s other bonus features, that’s not the case here, so it’s worth a listen.
Campus Life (15:14, HD): a day in the life of director Dan Scanlon as he rushes from meeting to meeting during the production of the movie.
Story School (8:38, HD): the myriad of story constructionists, story artists, and gag men who all work together to compile a script show the process of teamwork at its most effective level especially in the mid-film decision to switch the emphasis from Sully to Mike for the movie.
Scare Games (4:30, HD): a behind-the-scenes look at the games the Pixar staff play to relax between intensive work sessions.
Monthropology (5:47, HD): this short goes into the huge assortment of background monsters who people the campus of MU and how they were developed by the Pixar artists.
Welcome to MU (6:09, HD): the numerous digital art directors and set designers discuss the development of the university campus for the movie.
Music Appreciation (7:29, HD): composer Randy Newman is seen in behind-the-scenes recording sessions with the full orchestra as tracks are laid down for the movie.
Scare Tactics (5:16, HD): the artists show their own acting skills as they must become the monsters in face and form in order to animate them correctly.
Color and Light (5:46, HD): colorists and lighting designers explain their job in making the film have its distinctive look.
Paths to Pixar – MU Edition (7:40, HD): several of the studio’s valuable employees share stories of how their once destroyed dreams in other fields led to their becoming interested in art and finally being hired to work at Pixar.
Furry Monsters: A Technical Retrospective (5:02, HD): a brief discussion of how computer technology has developed over the years in order to have the startling number of furry creatures present in the movie when Sully’s fur in the original film was so difficult to generate properly.
Deleted Scenes (22:04, HD): four scenes excised from the film may be viewed separately or together and are introduced by director Dan Scanlon.
Promotional Materials (HD): offers a “Monster Mashup” (4:01), three different “College Concept” ads, and four theatrical trailers.
Set Flythroughs (6:25, HD): four tours through sets for the film are offered and may be viewed individually.
Interactive Art Galleries (HD): five different ones are available.
Promo Trailers (HD): Frozen, The Jungle Book, Planes.
DVD/Digital Copy: disc and instruction sheet for downloading are enclosed.
"The Blue Umbrella" clip
"Rivalry" deleted scene
Monsters University doesn’t rank with the very best of Pixar (the Toy Story trilogy, Up, The Incredibles), but it’s a reliably entertaining college romp for fans of the first Monsters film and certainly suitable for all members of the family. The video and audio are reference quality though 3D lovers may not feel the need for the extra expense with this title. Recommended.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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