Movie review: Monsters University
In 2001, Pixar released only their fourth animated feature Monsters Inc. It was to help cement the Pixar name and the impressive quality that was already associated with it, mostly due to the playful ground work provided by Toy Story 1 & 2.
Since then of course, they've gone from strength to strength, including being hoovered up by a certain mouse for several billion dollars.
Despite the huge success of their titles, they haven't really been a studio to knock out sequels willy nilly, with only Toy Story and Cars being the notable exceptions.
Twelve years after Mike and Sully first appeared on our screens, they make a welcome return, and just to be a little different, they're back in a prequel.
If you want to have a good life for yourself a decent education is important. This statement doesn't just ring true for humans, but monsters too. Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sullivan (John Goodman) have both decided to attend Monsters University with an eye to becoming scarers for a living, which is why they've both enrolled in majors in scaring.
Sullivan (AKA Sully to his friends), has a slight advantage, in that his old man was a highly regarded scarer. Although Mike has no nepotistic ties, he makes up for it with a hunger and passion for the job.
College life doesn't start off well for either of them however, when they find themselves kicked off the course by the intimidating Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). Being the slightly quick-witted of the pair, Mike makes a wager that if his fraternity win the upcoming Monster games, he can rejoin the course. Hardscrabble agrees, but only because she's fully aware that the only fraternity that will actually let Mike in is Oozma Kappa, who just so happen to be the biggest misfits on campus.
Mike decides he has little choice if he's to succeed, but even after joining the fraternity, they still find that their one monster down to compete. Although Mike and Sully haven't exactly gotten along at this point, it appears that the only chance both of them have of getting back on track is to get along and work together. But with five tough fraternities to compete against, the oddballs of Oozma Kappa have it all to do if they've any chance of winning.
When the original film was released, it was brimming with an unexpected charm and humour. The first surprise then, was that it took so long for another adventure with Mike and Sully to materialise. The second surprise is that this effort doesn't quite match the dizzy heights set by the first.
Probably the biggest factor is a complete change of hands on the project, with a new director and writing team on board. Although the animation is top notch, just as you would imagine, the script is a little underwhelming, with less sight gags and less laughs to be had.
It also struggles under the giant shadow of the first; there was something fresh and unique about it, and obviously this film clearly has less ingenuity than its predecessor. And although a prequel seems a natural direction to go, the collegiate setting just lacks the smarts of the original.
Obviously Sully and Mike are still two larger than life characters, but their fellow students seem a less quirky bunch, particularly their fellow members of Oozma Kappa.
Monsters University still works as a fun and colourful distraction for kids of all ages, and will no doubt be a monster hit, but it's just not quite in the same ivy league as Monsters Inc.
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