“Monsters University” may be the most unnecessary movie ever. Instead of being a sequel, which would at least continue on the tale of Mike and Sully from “Monsters Inc.” Pixar instead went the prequel route. I don’t like prequels in general, so I’m unfortunately predisposed to not liking “Monsters University” from the get go. With some clever site gags and breathless action however, Pixar manages to overcome the hurdle of being both a prequel and a freshman college story to make an enjoyable and funny kid-focused comedy.
Following an eye-opening experience at the “Monsters Inc” headquarters, the film jumps ahead to freshman year for Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James Sullivan (John Goodman) at Monsters University, where they are both enrolled in the scare program. Mike’s the nerd, Sully’s the jock, and though they don’t get along at first, they have to team up and become bestest friends. The stakes are incredibly low. The creepy-crawly Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) emphasizes over and over how they must graduate to succeed, but their success is already a forgone conclusion so nothing of any real consequence happens.
“I’ll Scare Circles Around You”
Thankfully, Pixar’s attention to detail is as sharp as ever, and they really have a blast fleshing out the university. All of the buildings feature monstrous designs, my favorite of which is the Scare School which resembles a horrible sea creature. All of the windows are monsters eye sockets, bricks are scales, and spikes, tentacles, and all manner of horrible things line the walls to create a charming/terrifying atmosphere.
The jokes are just as subtle as the animation, with every frame chockablock full of in-jokes and sly references. Whenever the story hits a bit of a lull, which is every fifteen minutes or so, there are enough background knee slappers to keep you attentive and chuckling. Spotting characters from “Monsters Inc,”and finding the voice cameos are games unto themselves, and easily pass the time between action scenes. Charlie Day as Art, the purple one with two legs and fur like Animal from “Sesame Street,” steals the show right out from under Billy Crystal and John Goodman, perfectly filling the hilarious space between kid focused slapstick and adult aimed jokes.
The action scenes concerning Mike and Sully are top-notch as they take their lame-duck fraternity through a series of escalating challenges to prove that they deserve to attend the Scare School and make something of themselves. A second-act sequence involving glowing sea urchin things and a madcap dash through a sewer is a highlight, as well as the climax, which I won’t spoil. Suffice it to say, the six year old behind me seemed scared and delighted at the same time, which is a damn hard emotion for Pixar to pull off. Bravo to them.
“What is the measure of a monster?”
It’s not like “Monsters University” needs an invigorating plot or a sharp spin on the classic campus comedy. It’s sole purpose is to reunite us with Mike and Sully, who both rank high on the list of Pixar’s most endearing characters, and nothing more. It was never going to be a classic, but it made me laugh, it made all of the kids in the theater laugh, and it’s well worth the fourteen bucks you’ll spend at the movie theater.
My Rating: 8/10