'Monsters University' Review: Pixar Returns to Form with Charming Prequel
It’s rare when a sequel, and in this case a prequel, tops the original. Disney Pixar’s newest film Monsters University is a prequel to the 2001 film Monsters, Inc. MU is as every bit funny, colorful, charming and delightful as the original Mike and Scully film. It's the best movie Pixar has done since Toy Story 3.
One-eyed green monster Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and fuzzy blue and purple monster James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) are best friends and co-workers in the Monsters Inc. world. However, when the two first met in college, they couldn’t stand each other. Monsters University is set years before Mike and Sully begin work at the scream factory and provides surprising character insight since we see how the two were as college freshmen.
Monsters University begins with elementary school Mike, (who might be the cutest thing in Pixar history), as he is taking his first field trip to Monsters Inc. When the class gets to the “scaring room” during the factory tour, Mike is completely in awe. He sneaks past the tour guide and slides into one of the kid’s doors with scaring monster Frank (John Krasinski). When Mike sees Frank in action, it’s right then and there he decides he wants to be a Scarer.
The story jumps to Mike’s first day at Monsters University where he is eager to make his mark in the legendary School of Scaring. His roommate is a shy Randy Boggs (Steve Buscemi), also a Scare major. How Randy transitions into the original film’s creepy villain is explained later. Mike is smart and has read every book on the technique of scaring the university has to offer. He knows the different types of scares by heart, but he’s just not really scary, he’s more of a huggable little guy, actually.
Mike meets his competition on the first day of class, a lazy and arrogant Sully, who is hoping to cruise by on his prestigious scaring family’s name and frat-boy status. The two continue to butt heads until an event happens that gets them both kicked out of the scaring school. Now its up to the mismatched duo to figure out how to get back into the school and under the good graces of Dean Hardscrabble (a pitch-perfect performance by Helen Mirren).
The 3D adds greatly to the story, and kids will love the bouncing monsters and glowing scenery. Part of the reason why Pixar films are so well liked is that they appeal to both kids and adults. There are plenty of laughs for the kids, but there are even more for the adults. Look for the scene where Mike is perusing the campus for the first time, as he walks by all of the “cliques.” It’s hilarious.
With MU being the prequel to Monsters Inc., we all know that Mike doesn’t end up fulfilling his dream as a Scarer; he ends up assisting Sully, the top Scarer at the factory. Yes, MU is laugh-out-loud hilarious, heartwarming and pure cinematic entertainment, but what makes the film so fantastic is the message at the end. Anyone who has worked his or her way to the top will appreciate Pixar’s genuine and realistic message here.
Monsters University doesn’t provide the typical fairy tale ending, which is what makes it so great and memorable. Not only is it one of the best-animated films of the year, it’s one of the best films of the year.
Note: Pixar always releases a short before their feature films. This short is titled The Blue Umbrella. The animation is so fantastic it almost looks like real-life and the score is beautiful and enchanting. If you decide to see Monsters University in theatres, make sure you get there on time so you don’t miss The Blue Umbrella!