Anthony's Film Review
Monsters University (2013)
The prequel to Monsters, Inc. presents a fun new world for the family to enjoy...
When it comes to movies that follow a previous one, I have one expectation that must be met. The movie must present enough new material for it to feel fresh so that I can further appreciate the characters I'm familiar with. This applies whether the follow-up movie is a sequel or a prequel, which only depends on whether the new material is about, respectively, what the familiar characters will do or have done before. The 2013 Disney/Pixar animated film Monsters University, which takes place before Monsters, Inc. from 2001, is something I enjoyed for presenting new things with familiar characters (not to mention a few interesting new characters). Is it as good as Monsters, Inc.? No, but it's still better than average.
In Monsters University, we learn that the short one-eyed green monster named Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) had been inspired to work at Monsters, Inc., an energy company that generates power from children's screams in the human world, during a school field trip there. We also see that Mike enrolled at Monsters University to become a scarer of children. The first couple of minutes that take place after Mike steps onto campus are interesting. College life in the monster world is very much like that of the human world, with orientation, moving into a dorm room, finding social clubs to join, and getting ready for classes.
The plot of this movie centers on Mike's struggle to become a scarer. Despite his dream to become one, there is a perception that Mike will never become one because of his small size and supposedly less scary appearance. This isn't just something that other students believe. It's also an assumption that the university's dean, a stern dragon-like monster named Hardscrabble (voiced by Helen Mirren), strongly makes. In order to prove everyone wrong, Mike enters an on-campus competition called the Scare Games, in which different fraternities and sororities prove their worth as scarers in a series of elimination events.
This, of course, won't be easy. The only fraternity that Mike could be a part of is an unpopular group of monsters whom others might see as uncool social misfits. As a result, Mike assumes the role of leader with intelligence and confidence. The fraternity also includes James "Sully" Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), a big furry blue-purple monster who, unlike Mike, is a college slacker and assumes that being the son of a legendary scarer is enough to get ahead in life. The only reason Sully is part of this group is because he had been part of the school's coolest fraternity, but was kicked out after looking bad in front of Dean Hardscrabble.
There are two reasons I enjoyed this movie. One, the computer animation, while still great in 2001, is even more detailed here in 2013. There are a lot of students on campus, and it's nice to see many background characters just to set the scene. Two, there is plenty of creativity with the world of Monsters University. I found myself nodding with admiration at things like the various events of the Scare Games (including one at the university library where the competitors must be quiet during their efforts to capture a flag), a university course on manufacturing the wooden doors that open to children's bedrooms, and even another scene at Monsters, Inc. where an important lesson for the main characters becomes evident.
If there is one thing that Monsters University doesn't have that Monsters, Inc. does, it's the element of heart and sweetness. If you've seen the 2001 Monsters, Inc., you'll recall that Sully bonds with an adorable little girl named Boo after she wandered into the monster world. Monsters University doesn't have any emotional scenes that truly cater to the heart. As a result, Monsters University doesn't rate as highly as Monsters, Inc. on my scale. At the same time, the story, humor, and fun of this prequel movie are enough for me to rate it above average. It's still a movie that is enjoyable for anyone who loves Mike and Sully.
For more information about Monsters University, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my review of Monsters, Inc.