It’s a little disconcerting to see a studio like Pixar Animation, which has long been known for its original and creative features and shorts, lean so heavily on sequels to their classics lately rather than coming up with new content. But one thing can be said for Pixar that can’t be said for many other studios, and that’s that their sequels are good. Very good, in fact, as is the case with “Monsters University”, which is actually a prequel to their 2001 hit “Monsters, Inc.”
The film depicts Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sullivan (John Goodman), the stars of “Monsters, Inc.”, during their college years at Monster University. All Mike’s life it has been his dream to study there and become a great scarer; as for Sully, it’s in his genes, so he doesn’t really take school all that seriously. From the moment they meet they can’t stand each other, and Mike is constantly frustrated by how all his hard work and studying doesn’t seem to pay off; after all, a little green eyeball isn’t all that frightening. When their squabbling ends in Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) kicking them out of the scaring program, Mike and Sully only have one chance to get back in: by winning the annual Scare Games. But to do so, they must learn to set aside their differences and work together while training a team from the school’s lamest fraternity.
“Monsters University” has all the hallmarks of a Pixar film, from beautiful, colorful animation to fun and unique characters. The premise isn’t as interesting as the first film though. “Monsters, Inc.” introduced viewers to a world that was completely new and different, a world in which monsters powered their world by collecting screams from children. While that world is still present in “Monsters University”, the typical college scene takes center stage. It isn’t completely original, but it’s fun seeing the ways in which the filmmakers adapt it to work with characters who aren’t human, and they do manage to make it amusing if not always clever.
The characters are very sympathetic and relatable, perhaps even more so than in the first movie. We’ve all either known or been a Mike or a Sully or the jock who’s a jerk or the losers who don’t seem to fit in, and there is more than one moment when viewers will likely root vigorously for them to succeed. And that leads to the greatest thing about “Monsters University”: it doesn’t settle for the perfect happy ending. Sometimes the underdog just can’t win. Sometimes, people aren’t meant to do what they really want to do. Sometimes, life just doesn’t happen as you planned, but that doesn’t mean things won’t work out in the end. It’s this realistic take on life that makes “Monsters University” more than a pleasant diversion.
No, it isn’t as great as “Monsters, Inc.” was, but “Monsters University” still excels at entertaining and inspiring. And for the kids who grew up watching “Monsters, Inc.” twelve years ago, its message probably came at just the right time.
Runtime: 104 minutes. Rated G.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre
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