By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
Disney/Pixar’s prequel to Monsters Inc. surely delivers laughs and makes for an adorably fun time at the cinema, but lacks the creative imagination of its predecessor. Using a typical “underdogs’ triumph over adversity” plot doesn’t offer adult audiences anything fresh to enjoy, but it does teach some valuable life lessons to children. So even though Monsters University does suffer from some of the symptoms of sequelitis, there’s no denying the entertainment value provided by its well written humor and the expectedly excellent voice work of the cast.
Before Sulley and Mike could live out their dream of frightening children at Monsters Inc., the two buddies had to overcome some challenges at the collegiate level. Sulley (John Goodman) may have the natural looks of monster, but lacks the drive and intelligence that Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) has. Even though Mike is determined to pursue his dream of scaring children, he has much work to do to develop that ability. At first these future best friends are unable to stand each other, but when the two realize the challenges they and their underdog buddies must face, they discover the importance of friendship and how to use the talents that they do have.
Written and directed by Dan Scanlon (Cars), who co-wrote the screenplay with Robert Baird and Daniel Gerson, Monsters University plays out like an animated Revenge of the Nerds, but obviously without the more lurid content and adult language. Sulley and Mike end up joining a fraternity of outcasts and misfits as they are deemed unworthy of pledging for the top fraternities on campus. Again, this is typical story material that most adults have seen. The strength of the film lies in the comedy. Anyone familiar with the college experience will enjoy the often hilarious jokes which definitely have fun with these clichés and archetypes. The writers, and of course the talented artists behind the gorgeous animation, come up with more fun and entertaining monster characters besides the favorites from the first film.
In addition to Goodman, Crystal and Steve Buscemi who once again shine here, the film features the excellent voice work of Joel Murray (Don Carlton), Sean Hayes/Dave Foley (Terri Perry), Peter Sohn (Squishy), Charlie Day (Art), Nathan Fillion (Johnny Worthington), and so many more. I absolutely loved that the filmmakers cast Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble. Her voice work here impeccably gives life to the strict, hard-nosed and sometimes frightening head of the school.
Because the movie has enough merits to make the faults a bit more tolerable and forgivable—not that this will matter to the younger children—I will recommend this as enjoyable matinee for families to enjoy. Despite what this Disney/Pixar film lacks in originality, the humor and wonderful characterizations make for a delightful time at the cinema.