Monsters University – film review

Theatrical poster for "Monsters University", featuring Mike and Sulley.
Theatrical poster for “Monsters University”, featuring Mike and Sulley.
Ever wonder how Mike and Sulley originally met? The animators at Pixar did, and so created the prequel to Monsters, Inc.: Monsters University.

Mike has wanted to go to MU to become a scarer ever since he went on a tour of Monters, Inc. when he was but a wee eye. Sulley comes from a long line of famous scarers and has pretty much been coasting through life without much effort since he “knows” he’s destined to follow in the family footsteps. This causes some conflict between the two, and they do not hit it off when they first meet.

This conflict carries into the final exam for Scaring 101 where—due to their constant bickering—they both fail and are dropped from the major. In order to get back into the program, they must win the Scare Games and prove they have what it takes to be scarers. With the odds stacked against them, and in a reluctant partnership, Mike and Sulley must figure out how to beat every other fraternity and sorority on the Monsters University campus.

The biggest strength of the film is how it doesn’t try to be the same as the original film. Monsters, Inc. was a smash success, and it’s always dangerous territory to try and recapture that “lightning in a bottle” when making a sequel (or prequel, as in this case). Some directors will stick to the same formula and create another film using much of the same material with only slight alterations.

While director Dan Scanlon certainly used the first film as a foundation, he made sure the story of this film was able to stand on its own and make its own way in the theaters. Many of the characters in the first film make appearances of various lengths throughout Monsters University, and it’s fun to see them a few years before the time in Monsters, Inc., but the film doesn’t rely on knowledge of those characters for you to enjoy it.

About the only complaint I have about Monsters University is that it feels not quite as magical as the first one. I can’t really point to any one thing and say with conviction, “There! That’s what I mean! That’s the part with the problem.” It’s just a general feeling throughout the film.

That said, it didn’t take away too much from Monsters University. The animators did a great job, the screenwriters made things very interesting, the music worked well to enhance the enjoyability, and the director made everything work well together. I highly recommend seeing it and I think you will enjoy it.

Scene from "The Blue Umbrella", directed by Saschka Unseld.
Scene from “The Blue Umbrella”, directed by Saschka Unseld.

Accompanying Monsters University is the delightful and groundbreaking short film, The Blue Umbrella, about the efforts of a blue umbrella to attract the attentions of a red umbrella on a dark and stormy night. At first, I wasn’t sure the film was actually animated, but Pixar used some new techniques to create a stunning rainy environment that felt so real and deep it took my breath away multiple times. I would not be surprised if this short film was nominated for an Oscar. I would nominate it myself, if I could.

Release Date: June 21, 2013 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G

MySF Rating: Four point five stars
Family Friendliness: 100%

Content:

Alcohol/Drugs: 0
Language: 0
Nudity: 0 (though most of the monsters don’t wear clothes)
Sexuality: 0
Violence: 1 (comical prank violence, scaring)


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