Director: Dan Scanlon
Writers: Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, Dan Scanlon (Screenplay & Story)
Stars: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Peter Sohn, Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Charlie Day, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina Childrens / Action-Adventure
Monsters University is a movie with a message, and I’m not sure it’s a message that I like. Especially for the target audience, kids.
This is a prequel to 2001’s highly successful Monsters, Inc., and covers how main characters Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) first met, when they were college students.
The movie begins with Mike, as he and his class at Frighton Elementary tour the Scare Floor at Monsters, Inc. and he is inspired to become a Scarer himself. He works hard and gets good grades.
And he goes to Monsters University to follow his dream. Early shots of MU are great: lots of different brightly colored monsters doing what monsters do. At college. Registering. Playing frisbee on the quad. Carrying in suitcases. Joining clubs, frats, sororities. Typical college life.
Mike applies himself and studies hard. And he meets both his roommate Randy Boggs (Steve Buscemi), another Scare student, and James P. Sullivan (Sulley), who finds being a Scarer easy, doesn’t study, and is getting something of a pass because of his family (he’s the son of Bill Sullivan, a famous Scarer).
The particularly demanding Scare class is taught by Professor Knight (Alfred Molina), and the very frightening headmistress Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) flies in every now and again to check on things.
The takeaway: work hard, study hard, and learn that you may never achieve your goal? But your buddy who’s a natural can . . . huh?
Don’t get me wrong. There are some fun things about this one. The Scare Games concept is very authentic–it’s put on by the Greek Council. It seemed like just the kind of crazy things the Greeks would do on campus–I certainly competed in similar Greek-sponsored events for charity while at college.
This leads to Mike joining Oozma Kappa (OK), a typical group of misfits and training them for the Games. They must compete against several teams, including outstanding frat Roar Omega Roar.
The animation is up to Pixar’s usual quality, the monsters are colorful, varied, and interesting, and will totally keep younger children visually occupied and the voice performances are amazing. Too, there is a homage to Carrie, that fans will enjoy.
The quest aspects of the plot will keep everyone rooting for Mike (and Sulley) to win in the end. But for me, those results sent mixed, if not wrong, messages, leaving me wanting to scream, “It’s not fair!” It does all work out in the end, sorta, but it left a bad taste in my mouth, and some confusion over whether the target audience would appreciate all of the fun college-related bits.
If younger kids haven’t seen the first one, maybe you should just rent it and skip this one . . .
Preceded by a cute animated short called The Blue Umbrella.
Elektra Hammond emulates her multi-sided idol Buckaroo Banzai by going in several directions at once.
Elektra lives in Delaware with her husband, Mike, and the cat herd of BlueBlaze/Benegesserit catteries. When not freelancing or appearing at science fiction conventions she travels world-wide judging cat shows.