Monsters University Review
by Delon Villanueva
Monsters Inc. is one of Pixar’s most popular properties, and for good reasons. From its undeniably creative concept to its tremendous heart, the film is an ideal example of Pixar’s unique storytelling. With Monsters Inc. being perfectly fine as it was, there was not much to go off from where the movie ends. If anything, a sequel could invest its time seeing an older Boo reenter the monster world. So, why make a prequel instead, when we already understand the relationship between Mike and Sulley? It doesn’t help that, as of recently, there has been a slight decline in Pixar’s quality, with Cars 2 being a blatant cash grab and Brave lacking the Pixar touch. Why would a prequel to Monsters Inc. that takes place in college work any better, considering that no one was really asking for one? Luckily, Pixar has chosen the right moment to get the hang of it again, as although Monsters University is on a much smaller scale than other Pixar films, it still pulls some original twists on a familiar formula and contains a very honest message.
Monsters University opens with a young Mike Wazowski on an elementary school field trip to the one and only Monsters Inc., where he gets inspired to become a scarer and study scaring at the prestigious Monsters University. Forward to his first day of college, Mike (Billy Crystal) immediately feels right at place on the campus of Monsters University, ready to become the scarer he always dreamed of becoming. Though things don’t go as smoothly as planned once he meets Sulley (John Goodman), another fellow scare student, for the first time. The two are complete opposites; while Mike is an understated overachiever, Sulley is an arrogant slacker. Their irreverent behavior in class gets them kicked out of the scaring program by none other than the dean herself, Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). To prove themselves worthy of being readmitted into the scaring program, Mike and Sulley team up, despite their differences, and compete in the Scare Games, where fraternities compete in obstacles and put their scaring skills to the test. Mike and Sulley are forced to join Oozma Kappa, a fraternity that features a couple of oddball monsters that unfortunately have no experience in scaring. It’ll be an uphill battle for Mike and Sulley, but for them to win, they must learn to put away their self-importance and work as a team.
As I’ve said, this is definitely one of the simpler, if not simplest, Pixar stories, so Monsters University might immediately feel inferior to some of the more ambitious Pixar films. In fact, this film may seem too similar to the college comedies that inspired it. Though Monsters University makes all that up in its great sense of humor and some very mature themes that you wouldn’t expect to see in a movie aimed towards kids. The movie is just as funny as the original, taking every visual opportunity to do something silly, but when it starts to speak to the audience, it has a lot to say. With Mike being the main character this time around, we’re given a very different perspective than we did in Monsters Inc., so different that Monsters University almost feels like a stand-alone movie. When you put aside its connections to the original, this movie is really Pixar’s first true coming-of-age story. It’s arguable that Toy Story 3 is one, too, but Monsters University directly speaks to the current generation of kids about the reality of expectations in life. The interesting thing about today’s youth is that there aren’t that many big dreamers out there anymore. By the time most of us reach our teenage years, we’ve been taught to be more realistic about our goals in life. Though the character of Mike Wazowski represents those kids who continued to dream big as they got older, but because of it, they face greater obstacles than most and make themselves vulnerable to disappointment. Without trying to make this review about my personal life, I must say this is one of the strongest connections I have ever made with a Pixar movie. This definitely won’t be the same for everyone, but the film still has a clear moral that anyone can relate to, even in the slightest.
The message of the movie might sound harsh, especially for a kids film, but with Pixar’s ingenious storytelling, Monsters University is still a very optimistic movie. As the movie wraps up, it reminds the audience that although things may not end up the way you want it to, everything will work out in the end. Not every audience is going to read into the movie as much as I did, but it just happened to personally speak to me. As I go off to college in a few months, I was really won over by this film, as it truly represented what I have gone through for many years, even from when Mike is just a puny little kid. For everyone else seeing this, you may not feel personally attached, but you still are going to get a very entertaining Pixar film, and after Cars 2 and Brave, there’s not much more you can ask for.
RATING: 9/10. I should go slightly lower, like around an 8, but as I’ve said, this movie is much more meaningful to me than it will be for others, so I hope I don’t overhype your expectations.