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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Monsters University

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Animated characters appear in the movie "Monsters University."
Your friendly neighborhood monsters are back. This time, they're heading to college and screaming up a storm in "Monsters University" (Disney), a 3-D animated prequel to the 2001 hit "Monsters, Inc."

This hilarious sendup of academia provides the backstory to key characters. It also reinforces familiar but important messages for young people (and their parents): Make friends, work together, study hard, and apply your unique talents for the greater good.

A prequel is never easy, as the audience already knows what has become of the main characters, best friends Mike Wazowski (voice of Billy Crystal), a lime-green eyeball, and James P. "Sully" Sullivan (voice of John Goodman), a purple bearlike creature.

Director Dan Scanlon meets the challenge with dozens of new characters (cue the merchandising) and a slapstick-filled script (by Scanlon, Robert Baird and Daniel Gerson) that offers a sanitized cross between "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "Revenge of the Nerds."

For the uninitiated, the city of Monstropolis is powered by the energy gleaned from screaming human children, frightened by the monsters that appear in their bedrooms at night. Scream-inducing talent must be developed, hence the elite School of Scaring at Monsters U.

Founded in 1313, the university is committed to "the relentless pursuit of monster potential," according to its mission statement. "Scaring is the true measure of the monster," intones Dean Hardscrabble (voice of Helen Mirren), a formidable flying centipede.

Mike, bullied as a child because of his small stature, is determined to succeed. He cracks the books and rises to the top of Scaring 101 class. He's the opposite of Sully, a fun-loving popular guy who gained admission as a legacy; his father was a famous "scarer."

The two lock horns in class and are thrown out of the program. Eager for a second chance, Mike discovers the Scare Games, a rumble organized by the college's fraternities to see who's the meanest and most menacing.

To enter, Mike must join a fraternity, but none will have him, not the athletes of Jaws Theta Chi (JOX) or the meanies of Gamma Roar Roar (GRR). Only Ozzma Kappa (OK) will take him in.

As fraternities go, OK is the Island of Misfit Toys, whose relentlessly cheerful members embrace their motto ("I'm OK!") and would rather sit around drinking cocoa than be scary. But victory in the games would mean readmission to the School of Scaring. So with Sully on board, Mike inspires his frat mates to reach for the top.

Preceding "Monsters University" is a charming short film from Pixar, "The Blue Umbrella," which explores love among parasols on a rainy city street. Both films are clean and wholesome fun for the entire family.

The Catholic News Service classification is A-I -- general patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is G -- general audiences. All ages admitted.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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