Ever since the release of “Toy Story” (1995), the folks over at Pixar have striven to equal (or surpass) the breathtaking excitement of that ground-breaking film. Although they’ve rarely fallen on their faces, it’s been pretty hard to match the humor, kindness, warmth, love and sense of adventure of the three “Toy Storys.” They’ve never really had a flop, but some of their outings have failed to stir the imagination and have fallen somewhere between the redundancy of “Cars 2” and the creativity of “Finding Nemo.” “Monsters University” lands somewhere in the lower portion of that continuum, a weak prequel to 2001’s “Monsters, Inc.” Where that film came up with the brilliant story of Monsters, Inc., a company that sends “Scarers” into bedrooms to generate their city’s power by frightening children, “Monsters University” breaks no new ground but instead comes off as a bland animated buddy film created to cash in on and take advantage of Disney’s merchandising juggernaut. (That being said, of course, I have to note that even a lackluster Pixar outing is still more entertaining than 90 percent of what passes for family product on the big — and little — screen). The story here revolves around college-bound monster Mike Wazowski (voice of Billy Crystal), who’s dreamed of becoming a Scarer since a little kid. Knowing that the best Scarers come from Monsters University, he enrolls in the school, but his plans go awry when he meets natural-born scarer James P. Sullivan, “Sulley” (voice of John Goodman). The two begin to compete with each other, and their outrageous shenanigans get them kicked out of the university’s elite Scare Program. It’s then that they realize they’ll have to work together, along with an odd bunch of misfit monsters, if they ever hope to make things right. Extras: DVD: Commentary; “The Blue Umbrella,” an animated short film from Pixar Animation Studios about two umbrellas who fall in love during a rain storm. Blu-ray sets add: “Campus Life” look at a day in the life of the “Monsters University” crew through their own eyes; “Story School” documentary examines the challenges of creating a prequel as well as themes that run through the story; “Scare Games” featurette on the Pixar Scare Games competitions; “Welcome to MU” look at the Monsters University campus and its development; “Music Appreciation” documentary on Randy Newman’s scores; “Scare Tactics” behind-the-scenes with the animators; “Color and Light” featurette; “Paths to Pixar – MU Edition” crew featurette; “Furry Monsters: A Technical Retrospective” explores the difficulties in creating characters that are 20 years younger with tools that are 10 years more advanced; deleted scenes; promo picks; college campaign; theatrical campaign; set flythroughs; art gallery; more. Vitals: Director: Dan Scanlon. Stars: Voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Julia Sweeney, John Krasinski, Aubrey Plaza, Bonnie Hunt, Frank Oz, Steve Buscemi, Charlie Day. 2013, CC, MPAA rating: G, 103 min., Animated, Box office gross: $258.565 million, Disney.
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