Back to School at Monster U – A review of Monsters University

5 stars for Monsters University
Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) is off to college in this summer's Pixar release, Monsters University
Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) is off to college in this summer's Pixar release, Monsters University

Title: MonstersUniversity

Production Company: Disney/Pixar

Run Time: 110 minutes

Rated: G

Director: Dan Scanlon

Stars: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi

Summary: Pixar has done it again. Returning to the Monsters Inc. universe with Mike and Sully, it feels like reacquainting with old friends in the prequel of how they first met. A great romp for the whole family.

There’s one thing to be said about this film right off the bat. It had more laugh out loud moments than all three of the other major comedy releases of the summer (Internship, Hangover III and This Is the End) had combined. But then again, that’s not surprising.

Pixar has made a business out of truly entertaining audiences. Even when the main characters aren’t human, they still manage to tug the heartstrings in ways that only animation can.

Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) are reunited in this prequel tale of how the two best of friends first meet while attending the coveted school of the title. As you can imagine, not everything starts out with sweetness and light.

But out of adversity is built the strongest of friendships. Along the way, there will be challenges and struggles to overcome, but that too is part of life. Even for a monster.

As you can gather from the previews and the intro of university life, the two friends will be embroiled in a competition and the stakes will be high. And there is, as expected from any good family flick, a strong moral lesson that will be learned along the way.

But the story manages to keep the lightness in play throughout as well. We’ll meet some old friends and even some new ones along the way, too.

The film pokes fun at itself and some of the actors will poke fun at their previous movie experiences too. Crystal gets a laugh out of in the know moviegoers when he makes reference to a classic romantic comedy about a princess bride. And who would have thought that Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) would be the voice of the head yeti of the mailroom at Monsters, Inc.?

Steve Buscemi is also back as backstabbing weasel Randall Boggs. No surprise, he joins a rival team and gets a comeuppance for his betrayal. But one of the better scenes involves the cameo by Monsters Inc. human resource manager Roz. You can see where the role she plays here is more than justified.

The lessons may be heavy handed and scattered liberally throughout the story, but it in no way detracts from the entertaining aspects of the movie, and that is typical of Pixar. What other movie company can you think of that could cast Helen Mirren as a multilegged bug and you could still take it seriously?

Monsters University isn’t very scary but it is very funny. All that and the underlying message that we’re better off with each other than working against each other and you have yet another Pixar slam dunk. I give the movie 5 out of 5 stars.

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