Imagine you’re watching an Australian Open final between Federer and Nadal. The catch: you know from the start that Federer wins in four sets. You still get to enjoy powerful swings, beautiful combinations and challenging shots, but the thrill of uncertainty is gone. You’re no longer at the edge of your seat, because you know the outcome.
This is the feeling I got from Monsters University, the new Pixar film preceeding the events of Monsters, Inc. Here the green eyeball (Mike Wazowski) and the blue yeti (James P. Sullivan) go to college together. The two have opposite personalities and immediately become bitter rivals. Yet, from the previous film, we know they’re destined to become friends and scarers, learn importance of teamwork and to accept themselves. No matter how far the plot wanders, the outcome is always assured.
But don’t let this mislead you. Monsters University is a remarkably entertaining film with a good message. It’s at least as good as anything we can expect in animation department this year. It has humour, excitement, moral and visuals, all in large amounts and of premium quality. A great package. I usually feel lucky to find two of those in a movie.
But I also feel this is not enough. It would be enough for Disney or DreamWorks, but not for Pixar. The best Pixar films have a way of telling heartfelt stories without seeming moralizing or contrived or mawkish. They feel natural, as if they weren’t even trying. And this one has got all the components, but for some reason they don’t blend together. Something’s missing. Perhaps it’s the soul.
PS Monsters University comes with a remarkable short called The Blue Umbrella, which I’ll post in this journal the moment I find it online!