Movies:Movie Reviews:Monsters University

Monsters University

Monsters University
Photo: ©2013 Pixar/Disney

Director(s): Dan Scanlon

Writer(s): Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird and Dan Scanlon

Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Peter Sohn, Joel Murray, Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, Charlie Day, Alfred Molina, Tyler Labine, Nathan Fillion, Aubrey Plaza, Bobby Moynihan and Julia Sweeney

Reviewed by: Ian Evans on

Release Date(s)

Jun 21, 2013 - Wide

I can’t believe it’s been twelve years since I saw Monsters Inc. and looked under the bed hoping to find Mike and Sulley. They’re back in Monsters University and I couldn’t be happier.

This time around, the Pixar folks give us a prequel and we track Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) as they enter university hoping to become Scarers: the monsters who visit the human world to collect the screams of children needed to power Monstropolis. The furry Sulley comes from a long line of famous Scarers but he’s all size and no technique. His diminutive one-eyed school rival, Mike, is all book-learning and scare theory. He knows the ins and outs of fear but lacks the credibility. When an accident gets them tossed from the program, a scare competition and a team of fraternity misfits is their only chance to get the terrifying Dean Hardscabble (Helen Mirren) to give them another chance.

In computer animation terms, twelve years is a lifetime. I remember the hours it took to render each of Sulley’s hairs and the technology has come so far that the university campus is awash with detail and action in each and every corner of the screen. The technology is just an empty show without the heart and the wizards of Pixar know that story and voice casting are a huge part of their success. Mike is the monster who has wanted this job since he was a little boy and Crystal captures the enthusiasm of a character whose drive sometimes exceeds his physical ability. The little green cyclops sees the world through a rose-coloured monocle and has to be the team’s head cheerleader even when the task seems daunting. John Goodman’s Sulley is 900 pounds of roaring fury but still has the subtlety to capture the doubts of a monster who is expected to carry on the family name and whose coasting on confidence actually hides fears about his real abilities.

Helen Mirren’s Hardscrabble has the imperial haughtiness and strength needed to strike fear into the hearts of children and MU students alike. Steve Buscemi’s slimy chameleon-like Randy Boggs sets his storyline up for Monsters Inc. The solid voice cast also features the talents of Dave Foley, Sean Hayes, Joel Murray, Peter Sohn, Charlie Day, Nathan Fillion, Bobby Moynihan, Julia Sweeney, and Aubrey Plaza.

We often root for the underdog and the fraternity that Mike and Sulley reluctantly join in order to field a team for the scare competition are the underdogs of underdogs. They’re so far from being scary monsters that they are blissfully unaware of their status on campus. However, they’re all heart and I found myself wanting to spend hours hanging out in their frat house. As usual, the Pixar folks create a meal that’s suitable for the kids in the audience while still providing a sophisticated palette for the adults. While some family films are aimed at the children with a few bones tossed to the grown ups, Pixar is capable of providing an entertainment that is satisfying for everyone with no corners cut.

Look, you can choose your major later, but right now get off the couch and go enroll in Monsters University. The only thing to fear is the student loans.