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'Monsters University' is well worth taking kids to

Jun. 28, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Some really fantastic authors (and quite a few not-so-fantastic ones) have made a reputation (and a living) on what is known as "formula fiction." It consists of using the same vague outline to tell a story, and then inserting different scenery, costumes, characters, etc. into the framework, for a whole new story.

With "Monsters University," Disney has come out with more "Formula Pixar." It's a new story, with the characters from their original "Monsters, Inc.," used in a different setting, with different scenery and different storyline.

And it works.

This prequel to the original had everyone in the theater under the age of 8 actually laughing out loud. And, let's face it, if you were an adult in that crowd, you had no business being there unless you are a child at heart. So don't complain about this movie.

Billy Crystal ("When Harry Met Sally," "City Slickers," "Saturday Night Live") returns as Mike Wazowski, this time as a college freshman. And this is where he meets James P. (Sulley) Sullivan, a role reprised by John Goodman ("Roseanne," "The Big Lebowski," "The Flintstones") and the chemistry between these two is amazing.

As adolescents, there isn't that much difference between the younger team and the veteran scarers who dominated the original movie, but the world around them is a wonderfully visualized version of the stereotyping of Frat Life.

Who would have thought that someone could show a PG view of the college Greek lifestyle, without the sex, drugs and rock & roll, and still make it fun and interesting.

From "Animal House" to "Van Wilder" (Ryan Reynolds as a naughty Frat Boy), movie audiences have seen many takes on partying and co-ed chasing, but not since Ronald Reagan was chasing a chimp across campus have we seen such innocent fun.

With the students of "Monsters University," it is all about the scare.

Actual academic life is hardly touched upon, in this movie, as 99 percent of the action is about the fraternity/sorority scene, and the "Revenge of the Nerds" mentality is in full force.

The main story is about the "Scare Games," where a wide variety of characters interact in perfectly logical (if you think Cartoon Frat House) fashion.

There are enough sidebar and changes in direction to keep this child's play from boring the older generation, and the 3-D and other CGI effects are first rate. Many scenes in this movie make you almost forget that this is a cartoon. As an audience member, you are invested enough in the feature that you openly cheer when the good guys win and weep when the going gets tough.

That's hard to do in a real life feature, let alone for an animated one.

Great second-tier performers in the voiceover production include Steve Buscemi ("Boardwalk Empire," "The Sopranos," "Reservoir Dogs") as Randy the Chameleon and Helen Mirren ("Red," "The Queen," "Excalibur") as Dean Hardscrabble, the flying millipede.

This one is well worth taking the kids to, and you will enjoy it, too.

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.