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MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

Published August 01. 2013 4:00AM

H H 1/2

G, 110 minutes. Lisbon, Westbrook.

"Monsters, Inc." may be the most original and underrated film ever to come out of Pixar, an inventive spin on the professional bogeymen hiding in kids' closets and the reasons they're there in the first place. It's their job, and a fully realized alternate universe is utterly dependent on their work. "Monsters University" is a prequel that is far more conventional, not nearly as witty or clever as that original. The 3-D animation takes the art form to a new level, a few sentimental moments connect and the climax is a hum-dinger. But with the bar set so high by the first film, this "Mike & Sully: The Fraternity Years" can't help but feel like a letdown. "University" takes us back to Mike Wazowski's childhood, when the smallest, shrimpiest-voiced monster on the bus resolved, after one school field trip to Monsters, Inc., to become a "scarer." It doesn't matter many people tell him, then and later, that he's not scary. He figures that just by wanting it and working harder for it, his dream will come true. Years later, at Monsters University, Mike (Billy Crystal) rooms with Boggs (Steve Buscemi), a mousy chameleon trying to fit in, still years away from becoming Mike's nemesis. The REAL enemy in college is frat-boy slacker James Sullivan (John Goodman). Everything the tiny, one-eyed Mike must study and study for, Sully seems ordained to achieve simply by genetics. Then, they're both dropped from The Scare School and forced to work together with members of a fraternity of outcasts to win their way back in through The Scare Games.

- Roger Moore, McClatchy

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