Monsters University

Monsters University is an entertaining and visually stunning production that is as whimsical and engaging as the preceding film.

Everyone who watched and enjoyed Pixar Animation Studios’ fourth and highly successful production Monsters, Inc. (2001) are in for a treat with Monsters University—an equally entertaining, visually stunning production that is as whimsical and engaging as the former. Given the growing trend in origin stories, this prequel works by keeping the story in tune with the times but suggestively aimed at a large, specific demographic: young minds who are about to experience all the highs and lows of college life.

Preceded by The Blue Umbrella, a short film that flexes Pixar’s photorealistic prowess, Monsters University begins by introducing us to Mike Wazowski, a green eyeball who dreams of being employed at Monsters Inc.—a factory that powers the city of Monstropilis by sending monsters to gather energy generated by terrifying human children. Knowing that he doesn’t have what it takes to be an effective ‘scarer’, Mike joins the titular university and on Day One forms a rivalry with James “Sully” Sullivan, an intimidating and overconfident behemoth of a monster. What follows is a fun filled farce where Mike and Sully must lead Oozma Kappa, a fraternity of monster misfits through a series of challenges, but not before learning to appreciate each other’s redeeming qualities first.

One of the biggest challenges for director and co-scripter Dan Scanlon (storyboard artist for Pixar’s Cars) was to make this second installment interesting as everyone knows how the film will end. This then becomes highly predictable for returning viewers who already know Mike and Sully to be inseparable friends. Another problem is the fact that children are easily bored with repetition, and that is probably why Cars 2 threw Pixar into a nose dive. Against all these odds, Scanlon’s nuance is in keeping this film fresh with loads of gags and witty one-liners aimed at children and grownups. Not forgetting the college going populous, there are also satirical pokes at various frat movies like Revenge of the Nerds (1984) and Carrie (1976) and even references to recent films like Oceans 13. The film also benefits from Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprising their roles as Mike and Sully, in addition to Steve Buscemi, Charlie Day and Helen Mirren lending their voices to some of the most vibrant characters ever created in an animation. Watch out for Terry Perry (Sean Hayes and Dave Foley), a two-headed monster with one body and two notorious brains!

Monsters University works as a perfect prequel even if you have not seen the 2001 original. Yes, there are moments that could have done with an extra dollop of the Crystal-Goodman chemistry from the original, but this is more than compensated with the inclusion of fresh new ‘monsters’ made possible by an impressive list of fantastic voice talents. The story not only brings back some of our favorite characters from the original, but also fits snugly within parent company Disney’s tradition of imparting moral messages for the whole family. There is a lot of heart and it beats at an overwhelming pace. Overall, kids will love it, parents will chuckle and then fumble with their wallets during a trip to the local toy store. I can also picture Steve Jobs smiling down on his legacy, and that is the touch of warmth and joy bustling in every Pixar production. This film included.

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.