Title: Monsters University
Release Date: June 21, 2013
Director: Dan Scanlon
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures | Pixar Animation Studios
The prequel to the Pixar classic Monsters, Inc. shows how Mike and Sulley first meet as students in the prestigious Scarer Program at Monsters University. They start off hostile to one another as Mike has dedicated his life to learning the arts and sciences of scaring, but finds it impossible to actually be scary. Meanwhile, Sulley rests on his family’s reputation and is too lazy to apply himself at school. It’s an interesting, and subtle, critique on how privilege can often be a barometer of success than hard work.
Both Mike and Sulley get thrown out of the Scarer Program, and in order to prove themselves they join a fraternity of the school’s nerdiest monsters in order to participate as a team in the university’s “Scare Games.” The bulk of the movie is their Oozma Kappa team stumbling through the challenges and succeeding through teamwork, creativity, and less savory means. The improvements in CGI animation since Monsters, Inc. is on display with several stunning scenes of monsters set against the red-brick, leafy college campus, and one spectacular image of Mike and Sully silhouetted against a moonlit lake.
On the one hand, credit is due for taking a chance and making the story of Monsters University so totally different from Monsters, Inc. On the other hand, by adopting the tropes of academia comedy, the creators of Monsters University have failed to do anything approaching the creativity of its predecessor, and that’s a huge disappointent. I’m not quite sure who this movie is made for since children won’t relate to the nostalgia of the college days’ gags and adults will get a few chuckles but no real belly laughs. Still, the charm of Crystal, Goodman, & co. is enough to distract from the fact that this is a rehash of dozens of stories of ragtag bands of misfits using teamwork to win, and make this movie an entertaining diversion.