Walt Disney Pictures
Article first published as Movie Review: Monsters University on Blogcritics.
Pixar has sure had a long road back to glory after releasing the stunning Toy Story 3. Cars 2 was a glorified Larry the Cable Guy film — even though it’s nowhere near as bad as people want to admit. And Brave may have won Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars but still has its share of detractors. What Pixar needs right now is something reliable, and what’s more reliable than taking a journey back to the land of Monstropolis with our favorite scarers, Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman). Yes, the duo is back in full hilarity in Monsters University.
MU begins all the way back when Mike is in elementary school. No one wants to be his friend — even though kid-Mike is completely adorable — so much so that he’s delegated to pairing off with his teacher while on a field trip to Monsters Inc. While visiting the facility, Mike crosses the line — literally — and sneaks into a child’s room. The scarer didn’t even know Mike had followed him in and Mike makes the decision that he too will one day join the work force of Monsters, Inc. After being accepted to Monsters University and enrolling in the School of Scaring program, Mike meets a younger James P. Sullivan who feels a sense of entitlement coming from a long family line of top scarers.
While Mike and Sulley do not get along in this edition, Mike also faces the challenge of not being scary courtesy of Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). The Dean kicks both Mike and Sulley out of the scare program after a scare-off debacle — and they wind up joining the Oozma Kappa fraternity. Now Mike and Sully, along with their newfound brothers — Don (Joel Murray), two-headed Terri (Sean Hayes) and Terry (Dave Foley), Art (Charlie Day), and Squishy (Peter Sohn) — must win the Scare Games to get back into the program and prove to the Dean and the whole campus that they’re far scarier than anyone would ever give them credit.
Monsters University still may not be the perfect Pixar film, but it is hilarious from beginning to end. A colleague told me he felt the first half was too jokey before it finally settled into being a Monsters film. People forget that the original is still the closest Pixar entry to being a full-blown comedy. The jokes have always come first and just because co-writer/director Dan Scanlon (along with co-writers Robert L. Baird and Daniel Gerson, who both helped write the original) relies on them more than Pete Docter, David Silverman, and Lee Unkrich did, doesn’t mean the film should be short-shifted.
There are huge laughs in Monsters University. Thankfully Crystal hasn’t lost his touch in voicing Mike Wazowski and Goodman keeps Sulley just as loveable as ever, even if the two are enemies for a good chunk of the movie. And don’t worry, there are plenty of familiar faces in the mix such as Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) who just happens to be Mike’s roommate. The Pixar magic has almost completely returned, and with a batch of original features in the pipeline, this should start getting the studio back on track to their glory days. Also, be on time so you don’t miss the brilliant short, The Blue Umbrella.
Photos courtesy Walt Disney Pictures