Movie Review: ‘Monsters University’

Monsters_University_poster_3Monsters University is the long awaited prequel to Pixar’s 2001 hit Monsters Inc. While the company has done sequels, this is their first prequel and it is an intriguing idea. In Monsters Inc, kids and adults alike were introduced to the world of the monsters and two monster friends Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sully (voiced by John Goodman). They work at Monsters Inc. where monsters scare children in order to collect their screams, as screams power their universe. In this prequel Pixar have gone back to their college days, where they first met. Monsters in college has got to be good right? It sure is!

Mike is a monster full of dreams. Dreaming of becoming a top scarer, he’s worked to get into college and get into the course. Those around him doubt his abilities because he doesn’t look scary and he’s out to prove them wrong. Along the way he meets Sully, who ends up being a competitor in the scare program. This rivalry leads the pair to get kicked out of said program until Mike comes up with a way to get them back in, by competing in Scare Games with a fraternity of misfits including Squishy (voiced by Peter Sohn), Don (voiced by Joel Murray), Terri & Terry (voiced by Sean Hayes and Dave Foley) and Art (voiced by Charlie Day).

The world of monsters is a very vibrant and imaginative one, each monster has their own distinct look and personality. Visually this is such a delight. There is so much to look at and take in, in particular on the college campus that has been created. This plays off of other college films with Fraternities and Sororities, groups that stick together and a scary Headmistress. The big difference between this and other college films is that this is squarely aimed at the family market. It appeals to kids, and there is more than enough to appeal to the adults as well. There is a lot of fun to be had, especially when it comes to the Scare Games and our misfits are such a joy to be around.

MU-hogJohn Goodman and Billy Crystal haven’t missed a beat as Sully and Mike. The chemistry is still there between the pair and the passion for these characters can be heard in their voice work. They really make these two enjoyable. These are two characters that really come to life and engage their audience. Steve Buscemi returns as Randall. He was very slimy the first time around and here he shows a softer side. Helen Mirren as Headmistress Hardscrabble is excellent, her voice mixed with the fantastic character design bring forth fear and elegance, as only she can do. The misfits are all cast exceptionally well. Peter Sohn brings in a lot of fun, Joel Murray gives us the maturity, Sean Hayes and Dave Foley bring the silly and Charlie Day gives us the most memorable performance with a stand out character. This talent pool fit well with their characters and also each other.

Pixar is excellent with 3D computer animation and they are at the top of their game here. Each character has a lot of detail; the texture alone on each creature is incredible! The scenery is always very interesting and vibrant. It is coloured to make sure each character stands out.

The team who designed each monster have a vivid imagination. Each character (including returning ones) are incredibly unique and they have features that set them apart from the others. No two monsters look the same; a task that certainly would not have been easy and my hat goes off to the team.

This is a fun and enjoyable ride. While it is not wholly original, and at times can be formulaic, it has a lot of charm and heart. The message of the film is to follow your dreams, even if they seem impossible because hard work can pay off. Mike does not get his dream handed to him, he works hard and it is something that can really be appreciated. It is a pleasure to be back in this world, and while Pixar hasn’t made their best ever, this is a really strong addition to their fold.