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Movies for Grownups

Billy Crystal (Mike) and John Goodman (Sulley) Meet at 'Monsters University'

'Monsters, Inc.' prequel gets a passing grade but misses the honor roll

Rating: G                                       Running Time: 110 minutes
Director:
Dan Scanlon
Stars:
Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, John Ratzenberger

Has it really been a dozen years since Monsters, Inc. unlocked the beautiful, scary, breathtakingly original world behind every child's bedroom door?

More than perhaps any other Disney/Pixar film, Monsters, Inc., which hit theaters in 2001, created a rich movie mythology that even for grownups (and perhaps especially for them) merited repeated viewings for the pure joy of each new discovery.

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Sulley (the tall blue guy) and Mike (the green fellow with one head, one eye) return in "Monsters University." — Disney/Pixar

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That's the kind of genius the long-awaited second movie, Monsters University, must live up to, and of course that's just not gonna happen.

Pixar films have always aimed to give older audiences something to chew over, and Monsters University does try to reward tagalong parents and grandparents with some sly humor and clever sight gags (one of the funniest: a monstrous slug who's always late for class). Plus, my colleagues over at AARP's new Life Reimagined department will be glad to see the character of Don, a middle-aged octopus-like monster who, after a lifetime working in sales, is reimagining himself as a professional "scarer."

When Pixar made a sequel to Toy Story, the studio accomplished the unthinkable: Chapter two (and then three) continued to unfold the rich fabric of the original's intricate fantasy world.

Since then the sequels to both Cars and now Monsters, Inc. have failed to convince us that they're much more than exercises in extending the lives of their franchises.

Voiced once more by Billy Crystal and John Goodman as main monsters Mike and Sulley, Monsters University is, as you'd expect from Pixar, brilliantly animated. It's a prequel, telling the story of how Mike and Sulley met during their college days.

The MU campus is populated by scores of delightfully off-kilter beings — two-headed and headless, furry and slimy. But where Monsters, Inc. got many of its laughs by plopping these bizarre creatures into mundane workaday settings — a factory floor, a seafood restaurant, an apartment house — the monster population seems oddly at home in a college environment. Is it just me, or didn't everybody know a guy in the dorm who could climb walls?

Happy footnote: The great John Ratzenberger (Cheers) continues his streak of voicing memorable guest characters in Disney/Pixar movies. It's gotten to the point where the audience applauds when he shows up. Trust me, you'll know him when you hear him.

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