Last Sunday we decided to live dangerously and take our 2 1/2-year-old to her first movie in the theater. (Mostly because we wanted to take the seven-year-old and see it ourselves, but not pay for a babysitter.) "Monsters University" seemed like a good choice for her first experience; she's seen "Monsters Inc." several times, and it holds her attention pretty well. So, armed with a sippy cup of apple juice and a giant tub of popcorn, the four of us headed out.
Surprisingly, aside from a few loud demands for "popcorn, please!" she caught on really well to the idea of being quiet and staying in her seat. It helps that she was completely riveted to the story, plus the Sunday matinee was full of other kids her age, thus camouflaging her occasional lapses.
Honestly, I don't know why this movie is getting such disappointing reviews - I thought it was wonderful! Obviously, the first one set the bar pretty high, but I think the idea of a prequel showing how Sully and Mike met at college worked out wonderfully. On the surface, there's absolutely gorgeous animation, the expected monster-based humor that plays so well with little kids, and typical college-movie humor about meeting new people and fitting in.
But there are also some great lessons buried in the plot if you pay attention, lessons kids don't get every day. Like how the guy who seems to have everything easy might still be struggling with problems you don't see. Or how you can work hard, try your best, but still fail - and how you carry on from that failure. (You never see that in a Disney movie - when was the last time you saw a Disney hero/heroine not get rewarded with their dream in the end?)
It's great to tell kids they can be anything if they try hard enough, but sometimes, reality steps in - the awkward, chubby girl might love ballet, but won't be a professional ballerina. A kid can love baseball, but never develop the skills needed for a college scholarship, no matter how hard he practices. Learning to deal with failure with grace, using that failure to build towards a new dream - these are great lessons to sneak in on a kid. Maybe too deep for a two-year-old, or even the seven-year-old, but if they watch it as many times as they've seen the original, something will sink in.
Overall, the experience went so well, we might try for "Despicable Me 2" this Sunday!