Critics Consensus: Monsters University is Certified Fresh

Plus, World War Z is smart and tense, and The Bling Ring is stylish and lurid.

by Tim Ryan | Friday, Jun. 21 2013

This week at the movies, we've got collegiate creatures (Monsters University, with voice performances from Billy Crystal and John Goodman), worldwide walking dead (World War Z, starring Brad Pitt and Mireille Enos), and juvenile jewel thieves (The Bling Ring, starring Emma Watson and Leslie Mann). What do the critics have to say?

Monsters University

78%

It's not unfair to say that Pixar isn't quite what it used to be; the animation studio that dazzled audiences and critics hasn't reached the dizzying creative heights of its 2000s heyday since 2010's Toy Story 3. Still, a decent Pixar movie still beats practically everybody else in the multiplex, and critics say Monsters University is pleasant, funny, and visually resplendent, though it's less imaginative than its predecessor. This prequel to Monsters Inc. shows how diminutive, one-eyed Mike (Billy Crystal) and imposing, blue-furred Sulley (John Goodman) became friends while studying how to frighten children in college. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Monsters University lacks the inventiveness of past triumphs, but it's still warm, witty, and beautifully animated. (Check out this week's Total Recall for a countdown of Goodman's best-reviewed movies, as well as our interviews with the Monsters University cast and crew.)

World War Z

68%

Not every film with a tortured production history is a disaster waiting to happen. Take World War Z, for example: despite extensive reshoots and rescheduled release dates, critics say this is largely a smart horror adventure with several white-knuckle action scenes and a terrific performance from Brad Pitt that helps to offset its patchy narrative. When mankind is threatened by a global zombie outbreak, it's up to ex-United Nations operative Gerry Lane (Pitt) to scour the planet to find the source of the pandemic. The pundits say World War Z sometimes feels overstuffed and under-developed, but for the most part, it's brainy and visceral, with a palpable sense of dread. (Check out this week's 24 Frames for a gallery of memorable zombie movies.)

The Bling Ring

60%

If Sofia Coppola is in the director's chair, you can safely assume her characters will be young, rich, ennui-laden, or some combination thereof. Thus, the heist-happy teens featured in The Bling Ring would seemingly be the perfect Coppola characters, but critics are split; some find the film to be stylish and subversive, while others feel it's shallow and tawdry. Based on a true story, The Bling Ring is the story of a group of teenagers who steal millions in cash and valuables from the homes of folks like including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Orlando Bloom. The pundits say there's a tabloid fascination to this material that keeps things watchable, but the film's moral detachment keeps the audience at arm's length.

Also opening this week in limited release:

  • A Hijacking, a thriller about a Danish cargo ship commandeered by a group of Somali pirates, is Certified Fresh at 100 percent.
  • The Attack, a drama about a prominent Israeli Palestinian whose wife is posthumously accused of being a suicide bomber, is at 92 percent.
  • Unfinished Song, starring Gemma Arterton and Terence Stamp in a dramedy about a grumpy older guy who comes out of his shell when he joins a local choir, is at 64 percent.
  • Maniac, starring Elijah Wood in a thriller about a withdrawn shop owner whose dark side is unleashed, is at 54 percent.
  • The French import Three Worlds, a drama about disparate people who reconnect after a hit-and-run accident, is at 43 percent.
  • Somm, a documentary about a group of wine experts working to pass the demanding Master Sommelier test, is at 33 percent.
  • Rushlights, a thriller about a pair of teens who get into big trouble when they attempt to claim an inheritance under false pretenses, is at zero percent.

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