Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Review: Monsters University

A prequel to the 2001 hit Monsters, Inc., Monsters University faces a lot of pressure to live up to its beloved predecessor. While it does not tell a unique story like the first film, Monsters University still succeeds in taking the viewers to a fun-filled ride with characters we all love to root for.

Ever since Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) was little, he has always dreamed of becoming a Scarer. Mike knows that the best way to make this dream a reality is to go to the school where the best Scarers come from - Monsters University (MU). But during his first semester at MU, Mike's plans are derailed when he clashes with natural-born scarer James “Sulley” P. Sullivan (John Goodman). Their conflict eventually gets them kicked out of MU's elite Scare Program. But Mike hatches a plan to get back his dream by joining the annual Scare Games where he made a deal with Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) that if he wins, she will let him back in the program. But it will not be easy for Mike as he is forced to work with a bunch of misfits and, worst of all, rival Sculley to win the competition.

For what is worth, there's a minor continuity error from Monsters, Inc. in Monsters University. The first film had a line that implies that Mike and Sulley first met when they were young and not in college. To be fair, Pixar itself acknowledged it and said that it is something that they have to set aside in favor of the story they mapped out for the prequel Personally, it's not a big deal but somehow it does tell that there's a level of disconnection between the first film and the prequel. It may not be fair but it's unavoidable to compare Monsters University to Monsters, Inc and truth be told this prequel does not really enrich the very imaginative world created in the first film. The story is just not fresh as it is basically a standard story of stereotype clashes and the unlikely friendship that eventually blossoms. It's not really a bad thing as long as the storytelling does not feel tired and Monsters University does not feel tired at all despite a “regular” plot thanks to it brisk pace and lively energy.

The greatest strength of Monsters University is undoubtedly the humor. There are no cheap shots made here as the film wisely maximizes its animated world with terrific sight gags and visual puns. It also utilizes the college setting to set up clever jokes. While the movie is mostly predictably funny, the third act elevates as it somewhat deviates from what is normally expected with this type of story. It's not a groundbreaking twist or anything but I like the message it sends that acknowledging your weakness will not totally hinder you from achieving a dream.

The chemistry of the voice actors certainly help things further as the banters are sharp while the one-liners hits the spot every single time. They maybe in their senior years but Goodman and Crystal could still convincingly portray younger versions of their characters. The animation remains as sophisticated as every Pixar film has although seeing it 3D does not really add anything spectacular.

We could say that Monsters University is an unnecessary prequel but if we look at it as a standalone movie, it's a competent production that delivers at all fronts. Sure, at its core Monsters University is just another campus comedy where we root for the underdogs to prevail but the excellent craftsmanship and witty storytelling is more than enough to make this a pleasurable movie-going experience.

Rating: 8 / 10 

Rate and discuss the movie at the Monsters University thread  at

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