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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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