Friday, August 16, 2013

Monsters University (movie review)

As always, it's fun making fun of movies that make fun of real life.  The idyllic college campus in the fall (autumn), the orange color of the leaves... that all makes an impression.

The formula is a standard for kids:  the contradiction.  A shark who's a vegetarian; an airplane afraid of heights (preview); monsters that aren't scary...

There's a place called "work" where the monsters scare children enough to power their world, and a place called "school" where you train for that place called work.  Those deemed unsuitable for the high prestige jobs start getting that message early:  you could never be one of them.  Some of them, in the meantime, have a strong sense of entitlement.  That's a core tension:  the entitled WASP named Sullivan versus the newcomer with a Polish / Eastern European name.

I thought the dean was marvelously scary, perfect for the part.  She was so many people for me.

Don't be fooled kids:  the adults are programming you big time with movies like this.  First there's Smallville, then... wait, Clark never gets into college.  He goes straight to the city paper, The Daily Planet, does he not?  Well, according to the latest version, he works on fishing ships and stuff, while we wait for him to get older.

There's a similar lesson in MU:  if you flunk out, it might be because you're really too good for that place, and if you apply yourself in that Monster Factory instead, you might work your way up, starting from the mail room.  Then you work in janitorial, cafeteria, and before you know it, you're "discovered" and it's just like they said Hollywood would be:  from waitress / waiter to celeb -- and without the expensive Scientology classes.

When the team is losing hope, they study the adults and each finds a role model, a Scarer they might become.  I found it poignant that they had to risk their necks to such a level to get this message, whereas the school, left to its own devices, would demoralize without restraint.

Back to stereotypes, the studious nerds are the butt of jokes at this party school of obviously mediocre quality.  Its grads are trained to just pick on children.  When adults are targeted, the economy proves unable to harness that level of energy.  Adult fear is something too intense and therefore verboten.  As a cartoon by Disney, it's OK to hint about those things, but lets remember some of the scariest people have been nerds, and I mean that in a nice way ("scary" = "bad ass" = "worthy" in this namespace).