It’s been a dozen years since Pixar introduced us to Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan, and now, their belated return comes in the form of a prequel. Traditionally, long layoffs and prequels are both causes for concern.
But have no fear, Pixar lives up to their reputation here, and delivers us a funny, fun family movie full of laughs and genuine warmth.
Young Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) dreams of being a scarer. After a class field trip to Monsters Inc, where he sneaks onto a scaring mission with a pro, he makes becoming a professional scarer his mission in life. Obtaining exceptional grades through high school, Wazowski achieves admission to Monsters University, and majors in scaring. Unfortunately for him, he’s at odds with a rival student, James P Sullivan. “Sulley” doesn’t have to work very hard at scaring; he comes from a long lineage of scarers and is physically gifted. This creates tension between he and Wazowski. Wazowski has to work hard for everything he gets, and Sullivan coasts on his laurels.
When an argument between them turns into an incident that gets them both kicked out of the scaring program, they’re left with only one resort. They have to join a team and win the annual “Scare Games” in order to be readmitted. Unluckily for them, the only Fraternity with open spots is the super unpopular (and more importantly, unscary) Oozma Kappa. If they want any hope of achieving their goal of becoming scarers, Mike and Sulley will have to learn to work together, coach the Oozma Kappa misfits into becoming scary, and win the coveted Scarer’s Cup.
I’ll admit to being skeptical about “Monsters U”. A lot of time had passed, and prequels are always tricky. I can wholeheartedly assure everyone now though that any skepticism you might have can be laid to rest. Pixar has undeniably crafted a worthy follow-up film to “Monsters Inc”. The story of Mike and Sulley’s time at the University is an action packed, humorous adventure with an abundance of heart. I had thought prior to seeing this that the collegiate humor in the film might be too much for children (in terms of fully understanding the jokes, plot, etc), but that certainly wasn’t the case. Children of all ages will appreciate the laughs and camaraderie presented.
And the laughs come fast and furious. This movie felt like there was a new joke every ten seconds or so. The monsters come in a wide variety, and each have their own silly/scary talents. The diversity presents a number of opportunities for scare and/or scare fail related jokes. As the plot unfolds, there’s constant material to chuckle at.
But it’s the friendship between Mike and Sulley that took center stage for me, here. The two begin their acquaintance as adversaries, but circumstances force them to work together to achieve their goals. Beyond that however, a genuine friendship forms based on trust, teamwork, and overcoming your own fears and self-imposed limitations. Cyrstal and Goodman do excellent jobs in the recording studio (as do the many other notable celebs lending their talents), and of course, Pixar’s animation is second to none.
I’m not sure this is in league with the best of Pixar’s best, but it definitely is a high quality animated comedy, and is certain to be front and center in the discussion for animated movie of the year.