Monsters University

Posted: June 26, 2013 in Movie Reviews

In Pixar's newest adventure, Mike and Sulley learns the value of friendship and sticking close by each other.

In Pixar’s newest adventure, Mike and Sulley learn the value of friendship and sticking close by each other.

As far back as Toy Story, Pixar’s signature element to their films that have come to define the company is story, and more specifically the way in which it’s told. From cooking rats to flying houses, Pixar has always been a strong advocate of the idea that any story can be told if done effectively. Monsters University is the 14th in a long line of instant successes that have become more than just movies to us, but more importantly the way in which we live out our brief childhood throughout our adult lives.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

Ever since a very young age, Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) has always dreamed of the day when he can become a scarer at Monsters, inc. In order to fulfill his dream, Mike enrolls in Monsters University, a school that will shape and mold him into the terrorizing scarer he needs to be.

Young Mike Wazowski greatly admires the life of a scarer.

Young Mike Wazowski greatly admires the life of a scarer.

Also enrolled is James “Sulley” Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), a monster whose family name is legend at the university. While Mike is passionate and hard-working, Sulley relies solely on his reputation and charismatic personality to pass, and personalities soon clash. When their rivalry causes their expulsion from the scare program, Mike and Sulley are forced to figure out a way to restore themselves to the program.

The answer comes through the Scare Games, a five-level competition that pits fraternity against fraternity. After Mike and Sulley team up with the less-than-stellar fraternity Oozma Kappa, the two must learn what it means to work with each other—–even in the midst of impossible circumstances—–a task that will test their limits and define their friendship forever.

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 After a Cars sequel that couldn’t live up to its predecessor and a Scottish tale that lacked Pixar’s renowned originality, fan expectations were fairly slim for this Monsters, Inc. prequel. In all honesty, I too had my uncertainties about a college film that based itself off of an already-existing world instead of creating a new one like Pixar does so proficiently. But alas, my fears were all for not, because this is for certain the best Pixar film we’ve seen since Toy Story 3. Why I ever doubted the greatest entertainment group in the first place, I ashamedly don’t know.

 We’ve always known that Mike and Sulley have been best pals for a long time, but we never got to see how they met and the conditions they encountered that evolved their friendship. We never knew why Randall despised Sulley so much. And up until now, we’ve only been able to speculate about the duo’s past history as scarers.

As always, this film pays immaculate attention to detail. In fact, this is the second aspect of their films that Pixar is renowned for. I only wish that I could have paused each and every frame of the movie, because that in and of itself is a beauty to behold. Its bright, vibrant colors lend to the gorgeous cinematic luster, and the film-makers utilize every possible way of reminding us that they’re the best at what they do.

Monsters_University

 The third notable aspect of the Pixar films are the characters they contain. Not only do we love and care about them, but we ultimately come to sympathize with them, to cherish them, and to recognize our own selves in them. If there’s one thing that Cars, Ratatouille, and Up has taught us, it’s that friendship bears no prejudice and places no limitation on difference or age. “You’ve got a friend in me” is more than merely a song—–it’s a premise that shows us that you can be worlds apart, but if you care so dearly for someone that you’re willing to sacrifice of yourself for their wellbeing, then you can experience a friendship deeper than any with someone on your own level.

In Monsters University, that premise stands just as prominently as it does in Toy Story. Sulley is a natural-born scarer, a monster who—–according to the world’s standard—–should be in league with the top scare fraternity on campus. But instead he’s pinned up with Mike Wazowski—–a leader, but no scarer—–and the lowest, least scariest fraternity on the totem pole. The brothers of Oozma Kappa are about as scary as a teddy bear, and at first have absolutely no prospects of being fearsome by any means. But through seemingly impossible odds and devotion to each other, they become what no one ever thought possible. And right there is the lesson of the story.

It would have been easy to make a nice, simple film with a nice, simple plot about a fraternity that builds itself up into a feasible competitive team that wins at the end, and everyone yells “yippee hooray!” But if this were the case, the name Dreamworks would have been at the beginning instead of Disney. Like all their other films, the plot is simple to explain but hard to describe, because there’s always more going on beneath the explainable surface.

Oozma Kappa_MU

 The film flows nicely and culminates expectedly, but it doesn’t end there. No, this is a Pixar film. It goes a step further and creates even more conflict than one would expect in a G-rated kids’ film. You think the movie has reached its end, the goal has been won and all are happy, but then it doesn’t end there. In fact, the story has not been completed. That took me by pleasant surprise, so kudos for that.

But what works best in Monsters University is the fact that you buy it. You buy the fact that Mike is an overachiever and Sully is a devil-may-care person, and the two eventually become life-long friends. You buy the fact that the quiet, cocoa-drinking bookworms of Oozma Kappa can become the top team of Monsters University. And you absolutely buy this film as a clever, well-thought prequel. Even though you know pretty much how the story is going to unfold and what will transpire (an aspect basically unavoidable), it’s more about the journey than it is the destination.

In a nutshell:

Monsters University is an absolutely charming prequel to one of the greatest Pixar films ever made. While it may not reach the same level of magnificence as its predecessor, one cannot doubt that Pixar is back to making fun, intelligent, and stylish stories that reach deep into our souls and bring out our warmest affections for all things fun and innocent. If you were a Joe College who went to university and did the whole college experience, you especially will appreciate this film for what it has to offer.

8.5 stars

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Comments
  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. I liked it enough, but the original will always stay clear in my mind.

  2. davidc1776 says:

    Many thanks. Yes this is very true; but honestly, it would have been extremely difficult to have made it as good as the original. Obviously MU didn’t have the heart and emotion that MI so perfectly gave us, so that’s why it isn’t as good. But for a prequel that strives for fun instead of emotion, it wasn’t bad at all!

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