Both of these animated children’s films hit our screens at approximately the same time, did battle cartoon-style to win over our hearts and attempted to emerge victorious in the ratings wars. With Despicable Me 2 raking in a cool 100 million spondoolies more than Monsters University, I decided to go old-fashioned on these stuffed toy selling behemoth franchises. Compare and contrast, mofos. It’s like being back at school, though this is a lot less technical and much more fun.
For Monsters University we take a trip back in time to, yeah, you guessed it, our favourite scarers’ college days. Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman) are both students in the scare program. The former is the book-smart, ambitious goody-goody who has deluded himself into believing he is actually scary, and the latter is the lazy, party-boy jock who, while genuinely is a natural scarer, plans to coast through with his one go-to scare move. Initially they both annoyed the crap out of each other. To be honest, they both kind of annoyed me too.
In the end, of course, they overcome their differences to become the unstoppable duo and bestest pals that we met back in Monsters, Inc., but not without the bumpy, sometimes unnecessary ride of all that came in-between. The pacing of Monsters University and the overall layout felt somewhat stuffed. The story followed a confusing route that left me bewildered, and I’m a full-grown adult. It was a series of, “do this to undo that, then do this to undo the damage that the second do did to undo the first thing you needed to undo”. Does that make sense? No? That’s basically how I felt when I was watching it.
As always though, our voice actors delivered splendidly. In general Billy Crystal’s voice bugs me, but he really is perfect for his role as Mike, the lime-green beach ball. John Goodman was always a fantastic choice for Sully, so much so that whenever I hear him outside of the Monsters franchise my mind immediately conjures up the image of the blue haired, horned and lantern-jawed beast. Steve Buscemi lends his voice once again to Randall “Randy” Boggs, giving a little backstory to the origin of one of the creepiest scarers in the films. Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble was inspired too, the combination of her voice and the animation of this particularly intimidating scaring legend created a genuinely ominous atmosphere. Nathan Fillion as the resident elitist fraternity brother managed to coax a chuckle or two from me, but on the whole the majority of laughs (when there were laughs to be had) came from the merry band of monster misfits that Mike and Sully were forced to team up with in order to secure their places in the scare program.
In parts I felt a little bored and was disappointed overall. The animation was beautiful and of a standard we’ve come to expect and possibly take for granted, but Monsters University is nowhere near as good as the original, and even though I wasn’t expecting it to be, it still came across as being a little pointless.
IMDB Rating: 7.4
Do I agree?: I couldn’t go any higher than a 6.5.
Despicable Me 2
I’ll be straight up. I wasn’t a huge fan of the first Despicable Me. I thought they got lucky because the minions were hilarious. Also, if you’ll try to cast your memory that far back (it’s hard, I know) you may recall another animated gem that was released at the same time. Megamind. Kind of fell by the wayside, didn’t it? I thought that was much better than Despicable Me. Perhaps it’s because of what Will Ferrell brought to the project, or perhaps it’s more my particular brand of comedy, but I really enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure I have it somewhere too, I should re-watch that.
Anyway, back on topic. I was worried that Despicable Me 2 would capitalise on the success of the original by bombarding us with mumbling minion after minion. I need not have been so concerned though, because the creators managed to strike the perfect balance. Knowing that the little yellow fellows are primarily what everyone wants to see, they gave us enough of their madness to giggle over, but not so much that the story spiraled into complete mayhem.
Gru (Steve Carell), who is still the doting father to his three adopted daughters, has been recruited by the AVL (The Anti-Villain League) to find and stop a super villain who has stolen a secret formula that turns fluffy bunnies into fluffier man-eating monsters. He’s been teamed up with Agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig), and together they go undercover at a mall in attempt to sniff out the villain responsible. Naturally everything goes awry, and Gru is forced to deal with his trusted accomplice Dr. Nefario’s (Russell Brand) leave of absence, his eldest daughter Margo’s (Miranda Cosgrove) new-found interest in dating boys and his unexpected feelings for quirkly AVL agent Lucy.
I haven’t laughed as much at a Steve Carell performance since his stint as Brick in Anchorman, and I still haven’t found out what exact accent that is he’s putting on, but it’s lulzy all the same. Kristen Wiig was great as Lucy and the kids were as adorable as ever. Benjamin Bratt as “El Macho” tickled a funny bone or two also, but to be fair, that character was more than a little stereotypical, and if this film wasn’t presented as such a wacky comedy I might be dubbing it borderline racist. Ethnic comedy, huh?
On the whole, I really enjoyed this one. It was a formulaic story, but it worked and the result was entertainment far superior to that of Monsters University. And so, for me, despite the first-rate and flawless animation from Pixar, for this particular bout I declare Despicable Me 2 the animated victor.
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Do I agree?: With so many minion musical numbers, how could I not?
What did you think of both Monsters University and Despicable Me 2? Let me know who you crowned as your victor in the comments below!V Does DVD Releases (October) 7/13. V Does DVD Releases (December) 3/12.