Pixar has a somewhat mixed bag when it comes to sequels. On the one hand we have the much beloved “Toy Story” trilogy, which has a special place in the hearts of those who love it, which is everyone with a heart…let’s face it. Then there’s “Cars 2.” That’s all I have to say about that.
So when a prequel to “Monsters, Inc.” one of their earlier and beloved tales was announced it’s no wonder that worry was just as present among fans as delight.
Then came the small, but somewhat valid dismay of fans when the plot was revealed to be that Mike and Sulley met at college. Many saw this as lacking continuity with the original film, which includes a line about Sulley being jealous of Mike’s good looks since the 4th grade. But it’s been acknowledged, “explained” (see article at end of review), and “Monsters University” manages to shine despite this small plot oversight.
Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. Sullivan aka Sulley (John Goodman return in this long-awaited prequel (that is once we realized it would not be a sequel), as we witness the beginnings of their friendship at Monsters University.
For those unfamiliar with the story, the premise is that in the world of monsters their main source of energy is the fear of children. They get this energy by entering our world through closet door portals to scare children in the night. The monsters charged with this duty are called scarers, and are the rock stars of their world.
The best of the best attend Monsters University, and that is our setting. Mike’s dreamed of being a scarer his whole life, and although he lacks any natural talent, or terrifying features, he’s worked and studied hard to get into the scaring program at Monster’s U. Sulley was born into a family of scarers. It is his family legacy and he thinks he can breeze through with little effort.
Needless to say that these two best friends as we know them from “Monsters, Inc.” are far from chummy when their paths first cross.
The cutthroat tactics of bone-chilling, hardcore Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), and a few misunderstandings, get the two of them kicked out of the program and into less thrilling educational pursuits. One final chance to be the scarers they’ve always wanted to be comes in the form of the Scare Games—a competition in which the fraternities and sororities of campus compete for the title of most terrifying.
Sulley and Mike are forced to work together, along with a far from frightening fraternity of misfits. It’s full of fun.
What Pixar does wonderfully is tell stories that will entertain kids without going for the easy (cheap) laughs, and without boring the rest of us to death. The concept of “Monsters University” is a testament to this. It’s the story of college life (a less than child friendly topic at times) as told through the lives of some adorable (and scary at times) monsters. It’s brilliant.
The prequel is true to its predecessor and pays homage without regurgitating (or would that be pregurgitating?) too many jokes.
I do have to comment on Pixar’s slightly surprising take on the value of continuing your education vs. working hard and climbing the corporate ladder. No spoilers, but I will say that given that this is a movie about an institute for higher learning, the ending kind of surprised me. However, at the end of the day lessons were learned, minds were inspired, and laughs were had.
…say what you will: