The best things about "Monsters University" occur before and after the animated feature film.
"The Blue Umbrella," a film short preceding "MU," is many of the things that "MU" is not. "Blue Umbrella" is imaginatively to the point, original and thoroughly entertaining.
After the credits conclude for "MU," there is a scene about a snail character, introduced early in the film as he makes his way slowly to class. The outcome of his progress is in the post-credits scene, which is also many of the things that "MU" is not. The scene is very funny, clever and efficient.
"Monsters University" is billed as a prequel to the critically-acclaimed and commercially-successful "Monsters, Inc.," which is about how monsters invade the dreams of children when they are asleep in their bedrooms.
"MU" takes Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and James P. Sullivan "Sulley" (voiced by John Goodman) back to college, where, with a bunch of their pals, they enroll in the Scare Program.
They get kicked out of the program. To get back into the Scare Program, they enter the campus "Scare Games," with the winning team granted entrance into the Scare Program.
The fraternity of Mike and Sulley, that of OK, as in Oozma Kappa (yes, you can buy the T-shirt), is pitted against a sorority and several frats, notably Roar Omega Roar (ROR).
The OK fraternity is composed of not particularly scary monsters. The ROR frat boys behave like bullies, not unlike those in countless campus storyline movies, especially recalling the bullying teens in "Back to the Future" (1985) and the shenanigans of "Animal House" (1978).
"Monsters U." could have been titled "Bully U."
It takes a lot of plot to fill up one-hour and 44-minutes, which is the length of "Monsters U," which is particularly lacking in the kind of humor parents and children expect in an animated feature film.
"MU" continues some interesting concepts from the first film, including that of doors, as in doors of perception, or portals of entry to children's nightmares. It's never fully explored.
Another concept, that of Scream Energy, is utilized to good effect. However, it occurs too late in the plot.
Before that, the majority of the storyline in "MU" has to do with the "Scare Games." While not exactly "The Hunger Games" (2012), this plot device seems all too unoriginal.
In the "Scare Games," contests include an obstacle course, Hide and Sneak, scaring teens, and the finale, a Simulator Scare, whereby children in bed are scared.
I found my attention drifting to the backgrounds in "MU.," which lavishly recreate a college campus in wonderful detail. The animation is superb. The lighting, the renderings and the character movements are all amazing. The film was seen in the 2D format for this review. I don't think it's necessary to see "MU" in 3D.
Dan Scanlon, in his animated feature film directorial debut, directs "Monsters U" from a screenplay and story he wrote with Dan Gerson ("Monsters, Inc.") and Robert L. Baird (Disney-Pixar screenplay contributor).
Billy Crystal is a standout as the voice of Mike. There's a scene where the character's back is turned and Crystal's distinctive voice makes it work.
John Goodman is similarly memorable as Sulley.
Even so, I found myself not fully enrolled in "Monsters U." It's almost as if I was nodding off. And you don't want to fall asleep in class at "Monsters University."
"Monsters University," MPAA Rated G (General Audiences. All Ages Admitted); Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy; Run time: 1 hr., 44 min.; Distributed by Disney-Pixar.
Box Office, July 5: For the July 4 holiday weekend, "Despicable Me 2" opened at No. 1, with $82.5 million and $142 million since opening July 3. The total is ahead of "Toy Story 3' which was the previous animated movie five-day recorder holder at $141 million.
"The Lone Ranger" opened at No. 2, with what is regarded as a disappointing $29.4 million and $48.9 million since July 3.
"The Heat" dropped from No. 2 to 3, $25 million, $86.3 million, two weeks.
"Monsters University" dropped from No. 1 to No. 4, $19.5 million, $216.1 million, three weeks;
5. "World War Z," $18.2 million, $158.7 million, three weeks; 6. "White House Down," $13.5 million, $50.4 million, two weeks; 7. "Man of Steel," $11.4 million, $271.2 million, four weeks; 8. "Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain," $10.1 million, $17.4 million, opening; 9. "This Is The End," $5.8 million, $85.5 million, four weeks; 10. "Now You See Me," $2.7 million, $110.4 million, six weeks
Unreel, July 12:
"Pacific Rim," PG-13: Guillermo del Toro directs the sci-fi action film about giant robots piloted by humans battling aliens attacking Earth.
"Grown Ups 2," PG-13: Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock and David Spade star in the sequel to the hit comedy.
Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, lehighvalleypress. com; and the Times-News web site, tnonline.com. Email Paul Willistein: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Two Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes