Film review: MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, from Built For Speed

Monsters University is a prequel to the highly successful 2001 film Monsters Inc.  which was a clever and very endearing parody of both the corporate world and monster movies.  In that film monsters entered the human world to frighten kiddies in their beds and in a fine example of renewable energy, used the children’s screams to power the monster world. The film introduced the lovable characters, misfit monsters Mike Wazowski (Billy crystal), Sulley (John Goodman) and sneaky chameleon Randy (Steve Buschemi).

Monsters University takes us back to when Mike met Sulley as a student at Monsters University. Both youngsters had always dreamt of joining that elite caste in Monster society, the Scarers and they immediately sign up for the coveted Scarers course.  Mike is dedicated student of all things monsterish but as he looks like a Cycloptic tennis ball with legs, he isn’t considered capable of scaring anyone. Sulley, being a huge, hairy ogre and the son of a famous monster, doesn’t think he has to work to succeed.  Much like Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson in The Internship, the two bumbling outcasts earn the contempt of everyone around them including the tyrannical Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). When Mike and Sulley are kicked out of the elite Scarers programme they have to battle other fraternities in the scare games to try and regain their place.

The film is essentially a parody of college movies like Animal House with the usual selection of campus characters (in monster form) and battles between the misfit nerd and the jock fraternities.  As a family film, though, Monsters University avoids any of the usual college movie sex jokes.

This is a typically clever and thoughtful Pixar film with some stunning animation (Sulley’s fur is more realistic than ever) and touching themes of identity and self-worth. It doesn’t quite stack up, however, to the Pixar classics like Toy Story, Wall-E or Monsters Inc..  This is partly because it’s a sequel and not entirely fresh but also because it’s neither as inventive, funny nor emotionally involving as those films.  The absence of Boo the cute little moppet from Monsters Inc is a big loss as she was such a likeable and endearing character.

The ever-likeable Billy crystal and John Goodman once again do terrific voice work as Mike and Sulley although they don’t always have scintillating or hilarious material to work with. It’s refreshing, though, to see an animated film tone down the manic, ear-crunching action sequences and spend time developing the characters. Helen Mirren does her usual grumpy school ma’am shtick to moderate effect as Dean Hardscrabble while Steve Buschemi’s role as Randy is underwritten and he is literally invisible for a lot of the film.

This is a fun, likeable film but not as remarkable as the classics in the Pixar canon.


Nick’s rating: Three and a half stars.

Classification: G.

Director(s): Dan Scanlon

Release date: 20th June 2013

Running time: 110 mins.


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