I tried to think up a punny “monstrous” title for this post, but smarter minds than mine have been thinking up slogans and, ah, “scarily” catchy titles for this type of thing for years. Ever since Monsters, Inc. came out way back in the cave man ages in 2001, in fact. And now every spooky stone and hair-raising hook has already been turned over and turned cliché. So forget that.
Anyway, the point is Monsters University, which I just had the pleasure of seeing earlier today. Though it isn’t Pixar’s all-time masterpiece by any means, it’s definitely an impressive piece of Disney’s classic movie magic.
For a little perspective, I’d like to also take a quick look at a couple other recent films. Namely, Man of Steel and World War Z. Am I trying to compare the latest Disney-Pixar family feature with a superhero movie and a zombie-apocalypse flick? No. Talk about comparing apples and oranges. But audience reaction levels are significant to a certain extent, no matter what the genre difference. And these three films spell something interesting when set beside one another.
For sake of parallelism, I’ll use three sources for each movie: Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb, and the tweeted opinions of my friend JC. Whom I totally did not ask for permission to quote in this post. So sorry, JC—your tweets fell too perfectly into my topic to resist. (@jsncrwfrd on Twitter; give him a follow.)
Man of Steel came out first, hitting the big screen just over a week ago on June 14. Rotten Tomatoes, ever the harsh viewpoint, scored it an official 56% on the tomatometer but acknowledged an 82% audience approval. IMDb was more favorable, rating the film at an impressive 8.0/10. JC was on the favorable side too, tweeting, “Man of Steel was really good! Solid acting, great soundtrack, great story. Loved how they told it. I give it an A. #NothingAfterCredits.”
The next week, World War Z opened. The tomatometer was gentler on this Brad Pitt blockbuster, scoring it at 67%, with audience satisfaction reaching 86%. This time, IMDb was less pleased, although it still rated the film a respectable 7.4/10. JC was less pleased as well. “#WorldWarZ: to me, it wasn’t a Zombie movie,” he tweeted. “More of an outbreak/disaster movie. Pitt was good. Story eh… Zombies were lame. Grade: C/C-”
That same date, Monsters University premiered. Rotten Tomatoes rated it a generous 77% with 89% audience satisfaction, and IMDb seconded the complimentary opinion with a hefty 7.8/10. JC’s tweet read, “Monsters University was awesome! Great film! I laughed so much. Well written and the short b4 was good too. No ‘Paperman’ though. Grade: A!”
Now this is where it gets interesting. To some extent, the above sources conflict over which of the two PG-13 action films is the more appealing. But the opinions are unanimously favorable, and even in general most favorable, about Monsters University.
Which is rated G.
That blows my mind.
It’s got to be one seriously good movie that can hold its own and get the attention of so many moviegoers without any mass destruction, without any sassy red-headed journalists, without any zombies, without any Brad Pitt. Without even an MPAA rating as mildly intense as PG. A movie that has to rely strictly on the chance of tapping into the inner child of each person who sits in the theater, on the fun of unlocking the joy of youthful imagination, no matter what the age of the audience member.
I guess what I’m trying to do is offer a salute to Robert L. Baird, Dan Gerson, and Dan Scanlon, who wrote the screenplay for this highly-anticipated prequel to Monsters, Inc., and again to Dan Scanlon for directing it. Because this is a job well done.
I mean, I love adventure films, action films, superhero films, disaster films. And I’m definitely looking forward to the ones still to come out this year. But every once in a while, it’s refreshing to have a Tangled, a Wreck-It Ralph, or a Monsters University. A chance to laugh and eat popcorn and candy and toss away the deadlines and the drama and remember what it was like to be a kid. (Or for some of us in cases like this one, what it was like to be the brand new kid on a university campus.)
After all, as somebody really smart (and also completely fictional) once said, “There’s no point in being grown up if you can’t be childish sometimes.”
Also, shout out to JC for doing those 140-characters-or-less movie reviews. Please keep them coming!
Postscript: After reading the above post and reacting very graciously to being quoted without prior notice, JC alerted me to the further interesting fact that, according to Entertainment Weekly, with a 4,004-theater $82 million in earnings, MU swept first place at the box office this weekend, followed by—you guessed it—World War Z ($66 million) and then Man of Steel ($41.2 million). Of course, we can’t judge Man of Steel too harshly since this is its second weekend in theaters, while the other two are just now showing up to the party with a bang. But hey, this weekend Monsters University came in $16 million ahead of the closest contestant. Big surprise, right?