Monsters University and the Fall of Everybody’s Favorite Movie Studio

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Crap. We forgot to invite Boo.

A Pixar Movie without a Pixar Moment 

With the release of Monsters University, Pixar’s unsettling, sequel-fueled descent has become considerably more difficult to deny. Indeed, if you’ll forgive me a moment’s somber self-indulgence, we may be witnessing the greatest and most disheartening pop cultural fall from grace since the sad, slow demise of The Simpsons.

When Pixar first announced the sequel, I somehow missed its title, and consequently I was happily oblivious to the fact that Pixar had inexplicably opted to produce a prequel. In ten seconds of idle speculation, I came up with two pitches, both superior to Pixar’s limp Mike-and-Sully-go-to-college premise:

  1. Boo is grown up.
  2. The story is set in the human world.

The first option opens up any number of possibilities: Boo as ambassador to the monster world; Boo with a toddler of her own (a toddler who visits the monster world as her mom did, or perhaps a toddler who is an anxious, neurotic, monsterphobic counterpart to her mother). The second option (which of course could easily accommodate the first option) would reverse the premise of Monsters, Inc.  That superior film boasts a scene wherein Mike and Sully are banished to the human world. It is a powerfully intriguing idea, but in retrospect the scene should have given us pause, for it was a surprising misstep on the part of Pixar, which hinted, we see now, at more unfortunate missteps to come; freshly arrived in the human world, the anthropomorphic eyeball and his towering furball buddy meet…  a fellow monster.

A monster without humans has no context. For proof, witness Monsters University’s cast of bland, many-limbed, ostensibly eccentric but actually interchangeable and utterly forgettable monsters. A Pixar monster without the young girl known only as Boo, meanwhile, has no heart. Recall Monsters, Inc.’s closing shot: Sully’s transformative smile, Boo’s delighted cry of “Kitty!” It’s a simple, powerful moment that arguably serves as that film’s thesis statement. It is also the first of many Pixar Moments—the capital letters feel justified—to reduce me to tears.

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They’re making a Finding Nemo sequel?!

How is it, then, that when Pixar opts to continue this fun, winning tale, they decide that the most engaging manner in which to do so is to eliminate one of the two characters who makes it so compelling? Was anyone clamoring to solve the haunting riddle: how did Mike and Sully meet? Did anybody demand a film set completely within a monster context? Because the result, to borrow a phrase from Transmetropolitan’s Spider Jerusalem, is “blood-stoppingly inane”. It’s like the creative talents behind that other plummeting gem, The Simpsons, decided that each episode should consist only of “Itchy and Scratchy” mayhem.

 photo MU3Thisisbullshit.jpgThis is bullshit!

I mentioned Pixar Moments. Recall the silent, devastating montage in Up, during which we learn that Carl and Ellie will never have children. Or Dr. Wayne Dyer’s quiet, stirring words at the close of “Day & Night”. Or just about any scene from Toy Story 3. (Here is Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman: “I’ve cried at a lot of movies in my time, it’s not really that big a deal — and in this case, besides, I knew I had my trusty 3-D mega-glasses to hide behind. But what you have to understand is that when it comes to my reaction to Toy Story 3, I’m not just talking about shedding a tear or two, or having that Brian’s Song lump in the throat. I’m talking about that soppy, awkward thing where you make sounds.”)

Today, sadly, a Pixar Moment is just a resigned pang one feels in response to the announcement of yet another sequel to a film that told a complete story, and which can therefore only suffer from a contrived continuation.

  • Chris Piers

    Less sequels, more original ideas, Pixar!