Photo Credit, Eric John
After some deliberation with my parents in Maryland it turns out the first movie I ever saw in theaters was Disney’s The Rescuers (I wish it had been Star Wars). It was at the drive-in, and I was a mere toddler. So my wife and I, in our limited wisdom decided that Monsters University would be our 3 year-olds first theater experience. I chronicled this foray into a family trip retro diary!
7pm. Just parked the car downtown, and we passed the already formidable line to get into the film on our way in. Thirty minutes until the movie. Awesome! I just saw a DeLorean in the parking garage. That means good luck. Our son has no idea what is about to happen to him, and we have little idea how he is going to react.
7:15pm. The line is moving well. Oh man, where are all the other kids? I don’t want my son to be the only potential meltdown candidate. How else will we score sympathy points with non-parents?
7:20pm. Holy homeland security! Cell phone check-in and someone to run a wand over you, this was a bigger problem back when I wore nipple rings.
7:25pm. Of course we sit down and the first thing our son does is need a diaper change! Five minutes until showtime and I have to find the family bathroom. These things usually never start on time…
7:45pm. And this time is no different. 7:48pm. Showtime!
7:49pm. Our son is sitting dutifully as the short film The Blue Umbrella starts. He is mesmerized by the enormity of the screen and the sound that fills your senses.
The short is wonderful, a simple live-action/animated love story between a blue and a red umbrella. Here is I see the visionary power of Pixar that was missed with Cars 2 and Brave.
7:55pm. Now for our feature presentation. The little boy is still sitting dutifully. My wife and I glance at each other with our son sitting between us. These are those moments when all the world seems right and good.
8:10ish. Thanks to our efforts from here on out to wrangle our child, the times become a bit fuzzy from here. The first act was going fine, a few laughs; nice to see some familiar faces on the screen and the opening shot actually cracked me up. Suddenly our son got bored sitting around and felt that a few trips up and down the aisle would spice it up
8:30ish. O.K., he is back in the chair, for the moment. Now I can actually review the film!
For those of you who don’t know, Monsters University is a prequel to Monsters Inc. The prequel brings back John Goodman as James P. Sullivan and Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski as they enter school both wanting to one day become scarers, the highest mark of a monster. Sully has natural ability thanks to his size and fearsome roar. Mike is talentless, but knows more and works harder than anyone, which he believes should be enough.
8:30ish still. Something seems awfully familiar about this story. Hmmm, college setting, an outcast fraternity filled with misfits must face off in a series of games against the Brave New World elite frathouses or face expulsion. Any guesses? If you said ‘Revenge of the Nerds,’ then like me you probably fit into the outcast category.
8:55ish. The wife and I are now largely ignoring our son switching from laying on the ground under his seat to laying in the aisle. The movie is fairly entertaining, but the inventiveness and intelligence that made the early Pixar films so brilliant is gone.
9:20ish. Aaaannnnd that is all our son can take, or cares to take, as he starts to become that kid you would dread to sit around on an airplane. My wife, understanding that writing my drivel requires me to actually see the entire film takes our son out just before the payoff.
9:38. Film has ended. Reflecting in quiet contemplation.
9:45. Oh yeah, I left my wife out outside with a tired and unruly toddler. End of diary.
My son, like Pixar has done with me, is spoiled. Maybe he was feeding off my uneasiness at some of the overdone jokes (I hate it when after some harrowing chase or escape sequence the characters say some lame quip) or a slight squirm I get when the story has nothing to offer me. If this were any other animation company, including Dreamworks (thanks largely to their three terrible Shrek sequels) I would likely applaud them for a nice effort. But Pixar is like the Miami Heat, where you have built your program to win championships otherwise the season is regarded as a failure. Obviously you can’t replace the big three of Brad Bird, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton (could also throw in Pete Doctor) with Robert Baird, Dan Scanlon and Daniel Gerson.
Monsters University is a fine film even if it is regrettably forgettable; still I’ll likely tell our son that his first theater experience was Star Wars Episode VII.