Monsters University – Movie Review

Monsters University – Movie Review

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 Movie ReviewMonsters 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.

Reviewed By Elektra Hammond

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Monsters University Movie Review
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Monsters University Movie Review
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.
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Elektra Hammond

Elektra Hammond

Editor & Reviewer
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.
Elektra Hammond
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  • Hestia Morris

    That’s kind of sad. Pixar is usually so good about life affirming messages but I guess in an effort to do their version of Animal House they lost their way.

    • Elektra Hammond

      I think they were maybe locked in by Monsters, Inc. and had no where to go with a sequel–the prequel idea wasn’t bad, just the baseline characteristics they gave Mike and Sulley. It could have been great, instead it was merely entertaining.

  • Erica S.

    I was extremely disappointed by the message in this movie, especially with the job market how it is today. They show someone cheat, get kicked out of school and still reach their ultimate goal. I have read several reviews and many are saying that the moral of the story is work hard and you will achieve your goal, but that is not reality. For most starter jobs, employers have stringent educational expectations. In the business world, you cannot move up the chain without the proper degrees and training. I feel it is in poor taste to show children you do not need higher education to succeed at a job where everyone else has a university diploma. It’s just not feasible in the real world. I understand this is a children’s movie and I should be looking at the broader messages of working together and never giving up on your dreams, but for me these positive themes were overshadowed by the negative reality of what happened in the film. I think if cheating was not part of the plot and they just were removed from the ‘Scare Program’ due to lack of skill/natural ability and then worked their way up the chain at Monsters Inc, I would’t be this upset. It was the point that they cheated and still got to exactly where they wanted to be that really bothered me. Hopefully, the children watching this film will not pick up on that distinction.

  • ace

    The right wing loves to promote the message that anyone can make it if they just work hard and apply themselves; therefore, if someone doesn’t “make it,” it’s their own fault because they must not have really tried. But this isn’t reality. Some DO have it relatively easy. Some are lucky to possess natural talents that others have not been gifted with. Some are lucky to be legacies and, as the saying goes, are born on third base and think they hit a triple. And some, sadly, are cheaters. Maybe rather than lie to kids by pretending life is going to be fair — only to crush and disillusion them later — it’s better to be honest with them from the start, and let them know that they WILL have to contend with cheaters and legacies…and that an honest effort carries its own reward that might not necessarily equate to “winning” in the superficial sense, and having a good character is more priceless than material success.

    • I understand your point of view, but like Erica S., I feel movies should set a better example whenever possible. We may not all be Captain America or Superman but the values they stood for helped to shape goals for young children.