Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Video review: "Monsters University"

Between “Planes” and “Monsters University,” the Pixar/Disney animation empire appears to be stuck in a rut. Once a fountainhead of original storytelling and innovative characters, lately they’ve been spinning out sequels that seemed to spring more from the minds of the marketing department than the creative wing of Walt’s shop.

“Monsters University” is a perfect example of the current state of Pixar -- an agreeable romp aimed squarely at the kindergarten-and-down crowd. It features a lot of cool screwy monsters, the estimable vocal talents of Billy Crystal and John Goodman, and not much else.

We’re going back in time to the college days of green, one-eyed ovoid Mike Wazowski (Crystal) and hirsute blue BMOC Sully (Goodman). Instead of pals they’re rivals squaring off to see who is the best scarer around.

When the top fraternities won’t take them, they’re forced to join the unhallowed ranks of Oozma Kappa, a frat full of losers that includes a middle-aged salesman, a two-headed monster with a split personality and a flaky dude who looks like a big purple “U.”

Playing the heavy is Helen Mirren as Hardscrabble, the old-school dean who doesn’t exactly take a shine to the big-headed frosh pair. She throws Sully and Mike out of the scare program, and to get back in they’ve got to pull together a team of reject monsters and win first prize at the annual Greek contest.

It’s mostly old hat, with a few funny bits and life-lessons moments. It gets a passing grade.

Video extras are quite good – provided you’re willing to spring for the more expensive Blu-ray/DVD combo. The DVD contains only with an audio commentary track and “The Blue Umbrella,” a charming little Pixar short film.

The Blu-ray package adds deleted scenes and nine making-of featurettes, including how to “age down” monsters who appeared in the original “Monsters, Inc.”



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