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Monsters University (3D Blu-ray Review)

25 Oct, 2013 By: John Latchem

Street 10/29/13
Box Office $267.5 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 BD/DVD, $45.99 BD combo, $49.99 3D BD combo
Rated ‘G.’
Voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion.

It isn’t necessary to have seen Monsters, Inc. before seeing Monsters University, but it helps. Pixar’s first prequel, Monsters University takes viewers back to the time when Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) first met James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) in college as they learn the basics of how to scare human children.

Mike would like nothing more than to become a top scarer, while Sulley is just coasting on his family name, leading to a rivalry that gets them both in trouble with the dean and forcing them to work together in a scaring competition to prove themselves.

I found myself enjoying Monsters University more than I did the first film, and it stands on its own quite well, but this probably isn’t a story that would work without having previously established the basic premise of this world — that the monsters children imagine in their closets at night exist in their own realm and visit our world because scaring children generates energy for their society. Indeed, many scenes and gags are references to similar events from the first film.

When considering both films as a whole, however, it’s remarkable how much Monsters University is able to tell its own story while playing into some major character arcs that pay off in Monsters, Inc. (most notably the career path of Mike). There are also plenty of hilarious gags.

As for the 3D, aside from a few standout scenes, the effects don’t add much to the viewing experience and are more noticeable for how they make the disc menus pop out.

The Blu-ray is loaded with extras, with the foremost among them being the short film The Blue Umbrella, a surreal bit about inanimate objects on a rainy day working to help an umbrella survive after getting blown away from its owner.

In addition, the behind-the-scenes extras focusing on Monsters University are quite extensive. The movie includes a commentary with director Dan Scanlon, producer Kori Rae and story supervisor Kelsey Mann, in which they discuss pretty much anything you’d want to know about the movie.

And if that’s not enough, there are several featurettes that focus on the story and animation processes, character design, music and more. The disc also contains storyboards for several unused sequences, including a bizarre subplot involving Mike and Sulley putting on a play in a drama class.

But the most interesting deleted scene is an alternate opening that involves Mike and Sulley meeting as kids, in reference to a throwaway line from the first film about knowing each other in fourth grade. In a lesson about the priorities of storytelling, eventually the filmmakers disregarded the line because they were spending too much time trying to make it fit their story rather than focusing on the story they wanted to tell.

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