School is scary
Monsters University is a 2013 prequel to 2001's Monsters Inc., being again produced by Pixar. The film is directed by Dan Scanlon and features voice work from Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Bob Peterson, and Helen Mirren.
As a young boy, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) visits the famous Monsters Inc. on a school field trip. Wazowski is wowed by the scarers that work for the company, and he gets inspired to grow up and become a scarer himself. Several years later, Mike attends Monsters University as a first-year scare major, and he meets James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (John Goodman), who comes from a family of natural scarers. Wazowski relies on being a bookworm and excels in his academics because of it, while Sulley struggles to succeed in his classes, only relying on his natural scaring abilities. The two accidentally get themselves kicked out of the school's scare program, but Wazowski, determined to prove that he is indeed a scary monster, joins the school's loser fraternity, Oozma Kappa, under the penalty of being expelled if he and his team are not able to win the university's annual Scare Games. Sulley also joins Oozma Kappa, who now have quite a challenge ahead of themselves in trying to topple the other monster fraternities and sororities in the series of Scare Games challenges.
Pixar's reputation has been so impressive, that I cannot help but feel optimistic about any of their new features, no matter how awful the trailer(s) might look. Say what one will about the Cars films, but there is no denying that Pixar always knows how to deliver a balanced blend of heart, humor, and creativity in each of their works. You can call it formulaic, but it's a formula for success that still holds up however many years later and continues to find a way to pull at our heartstrings and give us laughing fits. Even when Pixar does sequels or, in this case, prequels, it still does enough to feel satisfying and complete, even if said sequels and prequels don't quite hold up to the gems that inspired them in the first place.
I think long and hard about what my favorite animated film is, and although I watched A Bug's Life just about every other day when I was a kid, I keep finding myself coming back to Monsters Inc. Maybe the two are tied for my favorite animated film. The point is is that I adored Monsters Inc. a ton back in the day, so, naturally, I should adore Monsters University almost as much, if not just as much. I certainly did enjoy watching Monsters University, but it did not have me wanting to go back and watch it again and again like some other Pixar films. It is by no means a bad animated film, and it is far from being the absolute worst Pixar film. It is heartwarming and fun and totally enjoyable for all ages.
- The best thing about Monsters University is its sense of harmless, entertaining fun. The Scare Games challenges are all amusing to watch, and they are all challenges that would make sense at a college for monsters. Instead of tug-of-war or kayaking, we have sneak past the scary librarian and don't scare the teenagers. Mike and Sulley are once again a fun monster duo to watch, especially as we get to see how the two become good friends and how their friendship carries over into Monsters Inc. I also appreciate how Pixar continues to drop hints at how Mike and Sulley might secretly be a couple. Mike wakes up one morning and is using one of Sulley's hands like a pillow. If there's one thing about Pixar, it's that they can't resist sneaking in adult jokes somewhere. These are family films, so the grown-ups need something to laugh at too.
- Monsters University is scattershot funny, with some jokes and references that work while others will most likely fail to generate a chuckle. I come out of nearly every Pixar film remembering at least one or two especially funny moments, but that was, unfortunately, not the case with Monsters University. There isn't an effort to be overly clever, especially with its adult references. With so many colorful and furry monsters abound, you would think that the film has humorous opportunities out the wazoo. Monsters Inc. does a nice job of creating humor out of various monster characteristics, but Monsters University gives us the notion that nearly every college monster is a mean-spirited jerk that only cares about being part of the "cool crowd" and making condescending remarks to the not-so-fortunate monsters. I think by the college level, people have typically grown out of the contemptuous bullying stage that normally wanes during high school. I was never part of a college fraternity or sorority, so what do I know?
Kids will perfectly enjoy this film. As will adults. For that, Pixar deserves praise for another job well done with Monsters University. The humor might not be quite up to speed with Pixar's most popular animated films, but there are enough heartwarming and amusing moments to satisfy any Pixar fan. It's gentle, sweet, and colorful monster fun.
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: