Review – Monsters University
Life does not follow a plan, no matter how much preparation is involved. The digital animation studio Pixar hones in on the transformative nature of existence in the studio’s first attempt at a prequel, ‘Monsters University’. The film is a little sleepy but still manages to dig in an emotional hook.
Set before the events of ‘Monsters Inc.’, Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) are freshman at the prestigious Monsters University and enrolled in the scaring program. Mike is the studious type while Sulley prefers to breeze through the curriculum on his natural talent. These differences put the two at odds with each other as they navigate campus life.
‘Monsters University’ is missing the spark of ‘Monsters Inc.’ and the lethargic nature of the film comes from a familiar story of school/college life. The film plods through the trials of fraternities, an imposing dean (voiced by an authoritative Helen Mirren) and a sporting event called the Scare Games. On screen it’s obvious that director/co-writer, Dan Scanlon, and screenwriters, Robert L. Baird and Daniel Gerson, are fans of films like ‘Animal House’ and ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ but they never put the quirky Pixar stamp on their own material to make it stand out. Crystal and Goodman are adequate with their voice work, but seem to have been infected by the lackluster vibe of the material.
Despite tired plotting, the message beneath the surface of ‘Monsters University’ is as strong as you’d expect from Pixar. The studio is an emotional training facility for little humans (and a few adults too). The film offers up significant knock downs for Mike and Sulley to overcome in pursuit of their dreams, especially in the latter half of the film once the university gimmicks are over. Through these challenges a friendship is formed and it’s emphasised that there are multiple paths to achieving a goal as long as passion is never lost.
The animation is lush and bursting with vibrant colours. It’s fun marveling at the variety of kooky creatures and the little artistic and architectural flourishes that fill the monster world.
For most studios it’s hard to pull off a great sequel, and a prequel can be a harder task. Considering the level of difficult, Pixar manage to get a passing grade with ‘Monsters University’ but only manage to scrape through thanks to a big furry heart.
The Popcorn Junkie