Pixar earned its 14th No. 1 at the box office this weekend — out of 14 releases. Yep, the animation studio, now owned by Disney, has never not opened a film in first place. Its latest release, Monsters University, was no exception. It finished at the top of its class, according to Entertainment Weekly. The film grossed $82-million in its domestic debut.
“Monsters University” paced a high-traffic summer weekend for Hollywood: Paramount’s big-budget zombie flick “World War Z” allayed fears of a flameout with a strong $66-million debut ($110-million global); and last week’s champ, Warner Bros./DC’s “Man of Steel,” grossed $41.2-million, according to the Washington Post.
I took my family to see Monsters University today. My ten-year-old son said he liked it better than the original. My wife and I enjoyed the new film, which while it was not as poignant as the first movie still managed to scare up a lot of laughs. The movie also gave depth to the characters we got to know in Monsters, Inc., explaining how they all got to be who they were in that film.
Here are a roundup of movie reviews of Monsters University, courtesy of Hollywood Life:
New York Times
The voices are pleasantly recognizable, and the details meticulously playful, like the jagged, teethlike contours of a building’s arched entrance. But the story remains disappointingly familiar, mired in recycled buddy movie dynamics and the usual child-developmental directives about finding yourself and learning to work well with others. Both the originality and stirring emotional complexity of Monsters, Inc., with its exquisitely painful and touching parallels with the human world, are missing, which might be a lot less noticeable if Pixar had taken some bold leaps elsewhere: like making a movie in which girls and women are as central to the story as the boys and men of Pixar, as crucial as Mike and Sulley, Nemo and Marlin, Andy and Buzz and the other creatures great and small and male.
Los Angeles Times
Remember the days when Pixar meant perfection? When you could count on its animation to amaze, its stories to sweep you up? Remember Up? Or the smooth ride in Cars? The Toy Story pals whose friendship was anything but plastic? The love among the ruins unearthed by Wall-E? A clownfish dad’s deep-sea desperation in Finding Nemo? What has happened to the memory makers who gave us all that? They are nowhere to be found at Monsters University, the latest shiny new movie to roll off what increasingly feels like the Disney-Pixar assembly line. Cars 2 certainly sputtered. Even Brave, which won the 2012 Oscar for animated feature, didn’t seem especially brave. Monsters University is not so much substandard. It just isn’t the Ivy League.
New York Magazine
Monsters University is funny, fast, and likable, with occasional moments of real visual surprise and laugh-out-loud offhand gags: A schlumpy school librarian turns into a looming, horrific mountain of evil upon hearing loud noises in her library; a sweet monster mom rolls up the car windows to be alone with her “tunes,” which turn out to be death metal; a mild-mannered freshman struggles to learn the true value of his tentacles. But much of this is low-hanging fruit — milking the brilliant conceit of the original movie for all it’s worth. Call it the harsh bigotry of insanely high expectations, but it’s hard not to feel a little let down by Monsters University. Perhaps only Pixar could give us such a rare beast: a delightful disappointment.
Until Monsters University, a new origin story set several years before the action ofMonsters, Inc., [Pixar] had never attempted a prequel. You wonder what took them so long, because the characters Mike (voice of Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) are funny enough and their relationship rich enough to make the back story worth telling. The result is a charming addition to the Monsters canon.
New York Post
Monsters University is yet another play-it-safe cash grab that doesn’t aspire to come within light years of even the second tier of Pixar titles — including the three “Toy Story’’ films and the original “Cars’’ — all of which had genuine multigenerational appeal, if not quite the level of sophistication of the studio’s classics.
Disney Interactive Media Group will be promoting the characters in the Pixar Monsters movies even more in the August 18 launch of Disney Infinity, which will literally change the licensing game moving forward for Walt Disney Pictures’ live action and animated movies, according to Forbes.
Disney Infinity, which will be available across multiple consoles, isn’t just a game. It’s an expandable gaming world (similar in some ways to Activision’s Skylanders) that can plug in new stand-alone play sets featuring the casts of movies like Cars, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Incredibles. These original story lines will offer 6 to 10 hours of gameplay, which is about the average that traditional stand-alone Hollywood licensed games would offer.
“A great example of expanding these movie worlds is Monsters University and what’s going on with Fear Tech, which is the rival university that we’re exploring in this game,” said John Pleasants, co-president of Disney Interactive. “There’s a whole story line there that is not part of the Monsters University movie. It’s additive, not just drafting off of the movie.”