Monsters University Review: The Heart is Still There, But the Cleverness is All But Gone

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Prequels are really tough to pull off. Pixar’s first venture with them has some lovely moments, but mostly comes up short.

Monsters University reunites Billy Crystal and John Goodman as Mike and Sully, two monsters, and best friends, who have a passion for scaring. For Mike, we see how that passion originated right from the beginning.

Then we catch up to their college days. The pair wants to major in scaring. Mike studies harder than any of his peers, but the aloof Sully has the natural talent. They meet some other misfits along the way.

The best of which is Don Carlton (Joel Murray), a middle aged salesmonster that got fired and is back to school to learn about computers. Don exemplifies what made Monsters Inc. such a roaring success, the details put into creating the world. The original film was a workplace comedy that made you believe not only that monsters actually were in the closet when you were a kid, but that after scaring you they went home, kicked back and read the newspaper.

Monsters University is sort of like Pixar’s Animal House, because it takes every college cliche and jams it into the story without even thinking twice. Frisbee, fraternities, crazy parties, and some monster pong all have a place in this movie. But anyone who went to college will feel the artificial nature of the characters’ surroundings.

Sure there’s the occasional gem, such as a monster juggling three coffees before going into a final, but most of it is pretty hollow.

One would hope that Mike and Sully could rescue this film from itself. Well, that’s complicated too. Crystal and Goodman slip right back into their roles from 12 years ago, but the film just has no redeemable narrative arc. Mike wants to be a scarer, but the whole movie we know he fails, yet we are given no reason to believe he is content with his life come Monsters Inc. 

But the development of their friendship is quite touching. Plus there are a few great cameos and nostalgic moments to keep the fans of the original happy.

All in all though, this is easily one of Pixar’s weakest efforts. It pales in comparison to the original which is already far from the studio’s best film (although it is certainly a classic). Even Cars has a bit more charm and wit to it. The Pixar name is no where near what it used to be. Grade: C+

By Matt Dougherty

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