Review: Monsters University
Prior to the events of Monsters, Inc.¸ a bright-eyed young greed orb, Mike Wazowski, attends school in the hopes of becoming a great scarer. His idealism is threatened by peers and professors who say he isn’t scary enough, and forms a reluctant partnership with a slacker, Sulley, in order to prove doubters wrong and reach his dreams.
Who’s in It?
Billy Crystal and John Goodman reprise their roles from a decade ago. Steve Buscemi is back briefly as well, with newcomers Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Charlie Day, and Aubrey Plaza join in as well.
It’s been over ten years since the first time we saw Mike and Sulley on the big screen (though the film was re-released in 3D last year), and the first sight of the two of them is warm and welcoming. The loveable duo of scarers, one a loud, small, green sphere, the other a furry behemoth, are simply nice to see again – and a credit to the animators, both look younger.
The two don’t necessarily like seeing each other, though. They meet at Scaring School at MU, Mike idealist, and Sulley lazy, looking not so much to follow in his great father’s footsteps, but ride his coattails. Despite his studious nature, those in power think it is best to relegate the petite and innocuous Mike elsewhere. Stubborn, he gets into an altercation with Sulley, and both end up ousted from the class by a dismissive headmaster, the winged wormy Dean Hardscrabble. When Mike learns of the University’s annual scare games, however, he sees a chance to show that he is in fact scary.
Of course the only frat available to help take up his cause is Oozma Kappa (OK, as in, ‘We’re OK!”, a collection of awkward outcasts: a bespectacled adult student, a bohemian artist, a mama’s boy, and a two-headed creature that specializes in close-up magic. Sulley joins the team, adding brawn to complement Mike’s brain as well as whatever else the rag tag bunch can muster (one is a squid, so he sucks).
Gorgeously animated, adorned with minute details and lush with colour, Monsters University takes all the standard college clichés and monsteritizes them: we have the nerds, the jocks, the rotund professor, the stern headmaster, as well as a whole bunch of mean peers who tell Mike he isn’t the least bit frightening.
That theme right there is perhaps the most interesting part of a film that is more familiar and fun than it is actually funny. The sharp wit of the first is lacking, but a stronger message emerges, one that is more challenging and complex that what you would find in most family films.
What follows is formulaic but enjoyable, including an incredibly stunning race through the dark featuring glowing balls of prickly pain contestants are to avoid. As OK makes their way along, Mike and the rest come closer to facing his greatest test.
However academic, enthusiastic, and dedicated he is, Mike’s spherical shape, big bright eye, and bubbly personality stand in his way to being scary, and these are things he can’t necessarily change. So that realization must be accepted, ignored, subverted, or altered at some point in time, a moment that at any age and at any stage in life is powerful and heartbreaking.
Should I See It?
Yes, welcome back Mike and Sulley, it’s been a while! Stay until after the credits too, even if the third act seems to take a while to reach its conclusion. Oh, and there is also a very sweet animated short to open the film.
A member of Oozma Kappa: “I’m Art, new-age philosophy major –thought you might like to keep a dream journal.”