Monsters University

monsters_university

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.

A

62 thoughts on “Monsters University

  1. Hoping to take the kids to see this at a daytime session in the next few weeks! Can’t wait. I’m hearing so much good buzz about this one!!!

  2. I loved Monster Inc. when it first came out, but have really not seen the point of this movie at all. Why do we need a prequel anyway? But, all these positive reviews, yours in particular, is swaying towards giving it a watch. And since it doesn’t seem to detract from the characters at all, I’ll probably cave and see it next weekend. :)

    • Obviously there’s no real NEED for a sequel, let alone a prequel… Monsters Inc stands up fine on its own.

      That said, they do take this opportunity to make a worthy movie in its own right, not just a shameless cash grab off the name. This is a really good movie, I was definitely impressed by what they did here. Give it a look, Will, you’ll dig it.

  3. Definitely will ring the anvil on this one. Didn’t look at my watch once during the entire running time. But you failed to mention the animated short before the main feature -“The Blue Umbrella”. The art work is so great you’d think it was live people. This will not only be nominated but will win for Best Animated short at next year’s Oscars. Pixar’s short are sometimes better than most animated features. (I certainly loved it more than “Epic”.

    • LOL, yeah, “Epic” wasn’t all that memorable. I dunno, I wasn’t as blown away by the “Blue Umbrella” as much as I was say, “Paper Man” or “La Luna”. It was alright…

      Meanwhile though, I think I’m with you on ringing the anvil on MU. I’m definitely leaning that way, Al!

  4. Good review Fogs. I didn’t love this movie like I loved the original, but it was okay for what it was. Will definitely make the kids happier with their day, even if they totally miss the message.

    • I think it’s hard to top the original, when they had the benefit of presenting original characters and concepts… But this movie is a worthy sequel, IMO. I still prefer the first one myself!

  5. Thats what I’m talking about! I picked this as best of the month over at Dearfilm and may have picked wisely! Nice to see this is good, nice job Fogs!

  6. Pingback: Monsters University Review: We’re OK!!! | Rorschach Reviews

  7. This was one of the animated films on my must-see list this year, and your review has further cemented it into that position. Pixar has that magic ability to make the gushy, uplifting, “we can all learn to work together and discover new things about ourselves” feeling believable to adults by disarming us with humor along the way. I usually get disenchanted with films where, in your words “The two begin their acquaintance as adversaries, but circumstances force them to work together to achieve their goals.”, but I believe that if anyone can do it, it’s Goodman and Crystal!

    One important question I have for you: Is this a film that you think is better to see during hours when there are a lot of kids in the audience, or one that I’ll enjoy more at a later showing with a more discerning audience?

    • I don’t think it will matter. Kids will be laughing and into the movie, I believe… kids audiences are the worst when the movie isn’t good enough to hold their attention. If you enjoy getting that reaction/feedback from the youngins, then go then!

      And yeah, that friends who bagen as adversaries bit IS pretty clichéd nowadays, but like you said, Pixar can definitely pull it off. Trust me, this movie has plenty of life to its plot outside of regurgitating tired tropes, Dave. ;)

  8. Hi, Fogs:

    I didn’t read too deeply into your critique. For the simple reason that it looks like Pixar has pulled out all the stops after ten years.

    The film looks very decent for its back story and all the requisite bells and whistles that makes Pixar and this project so memorable. Definitely on my list to see.

    • “it looks like Pixar has pulled out all the stops after ten years” indeed. Pixar delivers the quality you’d expect here, and the back story between Mike and Sulley is definitely worth visiting. They certainly didn’t disappoint, Le0p ;)

  9. Solid Pixar film. Plenty to enjoy and a high quotient of quality. I liked the answer you gave above”… there’s no real NEED for a sequel, let alone a prequel…” It stands alone even though there are some good nods to the other entry.

    • Yeah, I think either one of them could stand on their own two feet without need of the other, that’s pretty nice to see. They’re both excellent, too, though I’m not sure yet if this one is worthy of the “Which Monsters ___ movie is the best” I still think Inc has it by a mile.

  10. Really glad to see that this is getting high praise from people. It looks like it’s a worthy successor to Monsters Inc. I’m hoping to get a chance to see it before too long.

    • Yeah, definitely didn’t tarnish the Monsters Inc legacy in any way shape or form. I don’t know that its going to inspire any “which is better” debates, but then again, it doesn’t have to ;)

  11. Good review, Fogs. I’m not sure it’s an “A” level movie for me, but I enjoyed seeing it. I agree with you that it doesn’t tarnish the legacy of Pixar and is well-made. I had fun with the movie references, and it kept my daughter’s attention. I didn’t laugh that many times, but I found myself smiling a lot.

  12. I thought this was sort of slow to get going. I remember thinking maybe a third of the way through, “have I laughed yet?” But, once the “scare games” got underway I thought it was back to the magic the first one had.
    BUT, one problem I have… at the beginning of Monsters Inc. when Mike and Sully are walking to work, Mike jokes that Sully has been trying to live up to him (or something like that) since they were four years old. What gives?
    But I digress, this was a good telling of the origins of the tandem. I even liked the polaroids at the end showing how they worked their way up to become a scare team. Good review Fogs.

    • I liked the path that they showed them taking to success, too. I think that was an unexpected way to go about it, I appreciated that element of surprise…

      Meanwhile, yeah, I don’t know. I haven’t seen the original in years, I cant really explain that line. Too bad to hear you think it got off to a slow start. Maybe it did and I didn’t notice it. I know once the Scare Games it was pretty uproarious for awhile. :D

  13. Glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I was really nervous about it because Monsters Inc. is my favorite Pixar film, and I was afraid they wouldn’t be able to capture the same magic.

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