Monsters University Review

Monsters University (banner)

It wasn’t so long ago that Pixar was a company that could do no wrong. You could argue that that fact remains true today. However we are at the point where we have to accept that the Golden Age might just be over.

Cars was a small bump in an otherwise smooth road until they decided to make another one. The Cars movies aren’t bad, just very mediocre.

After Cars 2 was Brave in 2012. It had some mixed reviews which is a shame as the film resonated with mothers and daughters, exploring the relationship between the two in a way films hadn’t done before. But sadly the whole package just fell short of excellence.

In many ways Monsters University is similar to Brave by the fact it does a lot of things right but isn’t quite of the same level of Pixar’s best. Interestingly it’s hard to decide whether the faults come from Monsters University being a prequel or whether this actually works in its favour.

monsters-university-star-billy-crystal-is-mikeThe film starts with a very adorable young Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) going on a school trip. After an exciting incident Mike decides he wants to become a scarer. When he’s old enough he attends university to take scare classes and follow his dreams. He’s got an intelligent mind and a solid determination to his advantage so his hopes are high.

Now, we saw Monsters Inc and Mike was definitely no scarer and this adds an unusual tension. Something will go wrong, but what and when? It’s a train crash we know is coming but does that make it better or worse?

Taking a more secondary position this time is Sully (John Goodman) who actually appears to be going through an arch that is more the typical college “A story”. He wants to be a scarer too but starts out thinking it’s going to be a piece of cake. He has some problems and struggles along the way but ultimately becomes the scarer he wants to be.

Be thankful then that Pixar decided that this should be Mike’s story because (without spoiling anything) the harsh lesson he has to learn is one you never see in big summer movies, especially in college movies. His story is definitely the more interesting of the two and its conclusion is both satisfying and realistic.

What makes this especially poignant is that anyone who was a kid when Monsters Inc came out will be roughly the right age to be attending college or have even gone through it and come out the other side having learned the very same lesson that Mike has to deal with.

It’s a relief that the setting doesn’t lead to too many of the “college movie” clichés. There’s a stolen mascot, fraternities and some sporting competition, but it has the ability to move in ways you don’t quite expect.

The scare games take up much of the plot and are Mike and Sully’s only chance at being allowed back to a class they were kicked out of. Joining Mike and Sully on their journey are a large number of new faces.


The fraternity Oozma Kappa is home to the awkward, nervous and strange. Of course, they are Mike and Sully’s only hope at forming a team. All of them are delightful characters and are a source of much of the film’s humour. However, a replacement for Boo they are not (but more on that later).

Squishy (Peter Sohn) has the ability to be both adorable and creepy. Don (Joel Murray) is the “mature” student of the group. Terri (Sean Hayes) and Terry (Dave Foley) are technically two heads on one body but neither of them leave much of an impression. I’m struggling to remember anything they did other than be there.

The weird purple monster called Art (Charlie Day) will probably become the most popular of the group, especially amongst the younger audience. He’s just that right amount of strange and consistent happiness. He also has one of the best lines of the entire film.

Their immediate rivals are the fraternity Roar Omega Roar, a group of the university’s best students, all with prestigious backgrounds. Sadly though there isn’t really an interesting character among them other than a young Randall. Even Nathon Fillion’s voice acting can’t bring much to the rather plain Johnny Worthington.

monsters deanThe film would be missing a crucial antagonist if it wasn’t for the frightening Dean Hardscrabble voiced beautifully by Helen Mirren. The stereotypical stuffy, old man of the cliché college movie she is not. Intelligent, harsh, frightening and doesn’t mince her words; she isn’t an out-and-out villain but merely a voice of reason, quick to remind Sully of a terrible truth.

Monsters University comes so close to greatness and does the best with the limits it is given. Unfortunately there are areas where it falls short. The inclusion of Randall (Steve Buscemi) feels like a real missed opportunity. We learn why he squints and why he gains a rivalry with Sully but when you find out it’s just a little underwhelming.

This is true in other places too. There are some amazing moments but none of them quite have the impact that they should.

The biggest flaw however, is that there is no replacing Boo. The loveable gang of hopeless monsters do their best but they don’t have the cuteness factor or the lasting impact that Boo did. The relationship between her and Sully is something that just can’t be matched.

Considering the limitations that come with being a prequel, Monsters University has the ability to surprise you and is so much fun that fans of the original won’t be disappointed. It’s great to see another side to both Mike and Sully. They’re far enough from their future selves to create a new dynamic and not so far that it’s unbelievable.

Monsters University avoids some of the worst college movie clichés to head in unexpected directions and deliver a solid story. Just don’t expect a return of the Pixar Golden Age.

Copyright © 2013 MCM BUZZ – Movies, TV, Comics, Gaming, Anime, Cosplay News & Reviews