Pixar’s attempt to play homage to 80’s college comedies.
In this prequel to the beloved Pixar gem Monsters Inc, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) has big dreams of one day working as a scarer at Monsters Inc. Once graduated from high school, Mike enrolls at Monsters University, where he is constantly looked down upon by his fellow monster classmates. It seems that everyone at Monster University including Sully (John Goodman), Professor Knight (Alfred Molina), and even the University’s Dean (Helen Mirren) don’t believe that Mike has the ability to be scary. Now, destined to prove his worth, Mike joins forces with a series of monster outcasts as well as his nemesis Sully to prove, once and for all that he has what it takes and can win the annual Scare Games.
Unlike most who have reviewed this film, I have had the privilege of seeing this film twice before its actual release in theaters. I first saw the film back in April at an early college screening and then again a few days before its theatrical release. When I first saw Monsters University, I found the film enjoyable, entertaining, and even endearing at times, but my second experience was not as positive.
I want to first and foremost say that I enjoyed Monsters University much more than I enjoyed Cars 2 and Brave. While Monsters University doesn’t quite have the originality that I wanted from it, I still found the film to be enjoyable especially for those who are die hard fans of the original. With that being said, I have to point out that Monsters University is not nearly as original as Monsters Inc and instead is just a Pixar adaptation of classic 80’s college films that feature social outcasts.
Here is a basic snapshot of the formulaic story that Monsters University follows. First, you have Mike, the lovable monster with a big heart and even bigger dreams. Next, you have a large array of oddball secondary characters including Don, Squishy, Art, Terry, and Terri who are also super sweet but really weird. Then, once you have those characters, you need to add in some conflict. So you add Sully, who at first seems like a jerk, but later becomes entirely likable and lovable. And finally, you need a villain or two, so we have Dean Hardscrabble as well as several other jock type personalities added to the story.
I know what you are thinking, most movies have similar plots and have been done over and over again so what’s the big deal with this one? Honestly, I don’t really think its a HUGE deal but considering how original most of the earlier Pixar films were including Toy Story, Wall-E, Monsters Inc, and Finding Nemo, I kind of feel that Monsters University is more of a generic lazy prequel that doesn’t showcase Pixar’s full potential. So with that being said, I will discuss some of the things about the film that I liked and some of the things that I didn’t care for.
First off, I enjoyed the whole Revenge of The Nerds story line that Monsters University followed. It really felt like it was playing as a homage to that film as well as several other classic college films. The introduction of all the social misfit characters especially Squishy and Art really added something to the film. I feel if the film didn’t have these new characters that it would have really strictly felt like a huge cash grab (which I still think it is) to cash in on the success of the original. But honestly, I thought the new secondary characters added a lot of fun and humor to the film. They were the heart and soul of the film to me.
Besides the introduction of the new characters, I really liked how the script incorporated several classic Monsters Inc characters into the story. While some of them you can obviously tell were just placed within the film to get the audience to say “look there’s Yeti,” while there are others who really do fit in with the story. Regardless of how they were used, it was nice to see these classic characters again, even if its only for a few seconds. It was also smart that the film’s writers really tried to connect the details of the original film with the prequel. This made the film’s overall conclusion feel more satisfying.
As for the negatives, upon my second viewing of the film, I just found the film to be rather dull and extremely slow paced in spots. There is a bit too much conflict in the film especially with the Dean subplot. I understand that it was the glue that united Mike and Sully together, but I don’t think it was necessary. The writers could have simply had Professor Knight do exactly what the Dean did and it would have had the same effect without introducing another character that wasn’t really likable as a whole. I also have to say that the conflict during the first hour between Mike and Sully just felt too simplistic and formulaic. It was so predictable that it left nothing up to the imagination at all. In fact, there was only one plot twist near the end that really made their story work, but for the most part I felt like the writing with the main characters was lazy and only served as a way to create a very generic conflict between the two of them.
Another thing about the prequel is that I just don’t think it is as memorable or enjoyable as the original. It was really hard to sit through the film for the second time because none of the jokes really seemed to work on repeat viewings and the story wasn’t anything special. This is a biggie for me because I can watch films like Finding Nemo or Toy Story over and over again and never get bored. I also need to point out that a few weeks ago, I saw The Internship, which I felt contained a lot of the same story as well as character types that Monsters University contained. I honestly don’t know if its because its Pixar and people are so in love with these characters that they can’t see the similarities but trust me, a lot of the film just feels recycled and uninspired. I think once you get past the fact that your favorite characters are back on the big screen, you can see the how average the overall story is.
All in All, despite my complaints, I enjoyed Monsters University. I don’t think I would watch it again for a really long time, but it is fun to see how Mike and Sully became friends. I truly feel that with all the talent that Pixar has, they could have easily given these characters a much better story than what they got. Overall, if you are a huge fan of the original, I think you will still enjoy this film especially for the nostalgia effect that the film gives off, but also simply because you truly love these characters. I think its a decent prequel, but definitely not the high caliber type film that I have grown to expect from Pixar.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Monsters University is a 7 out of 10.