Monsters University Movie Review
Pixar revisits the characters from 2001's Monsters, Inc. for a frat-house prequel. Which is kind of an odd setting for a kids' movie. The comedy is more focussed on action sequences than characters this time, so it's not nearly as satisfying. But it's still a lot of fun, thanks to a constant barrage of sharp verbal and visual gags.
When he was just a child, Mike (Crystal) dreamed about becoming a scarer, capturing the screams of human children to provide power to Monstropolis. So he's thrilled when he enters Monsters University, and takes his studies very seriously. By contrast, his roommate Randy (Buscemi) is more interested in partying, while classmate Sulley (Goodman) is lazily coasting on the legacy of his famed scarer dad. Then Mike and Sulley end up on the wrong side of Dean Hardscrabble (Mirren), who gives them one chance to stay in school: they have to win the Scare Games. But the only frat-house that needs them is made up of unscary misfits: nice-guy Dan (Murray), two-headed dimwit Terry/Terri (Hayes/Foley), naive five-eyed Squishy (Sohn) and furry philosopher Art (Day).
We never really doubt where this is going, but the filmmakers have a lot of fun along the way, and the story does take some surprising twists. Essentially, it's the same premise as Glee, with nerdy outcasts banding together to draw on their personal talents and show the cool kids that they're not losers. The script never really develops any of the side characters beyond one key personality trait, but the relationship between Mike and Sulley has a real kick of emotional resonance, superbly well-voiced by Crystal and Goodman. And the bromance between these two is even more enjoyable than all the colourful mayhem and snappy joking around.
The film races from one set-piece to the next, holding our attention with its hyperactive plot and the animators' astonishing attention to detail. The zinging one-liners, subtle visual gags and most of the frat-house humour will go over the heads of kids in the audience, but they'll love the frantic pacing and colourful silliness. And what's most surprising about the film is that it has a relevant message for our times: it may be important to find what we're good at, but we also need to be realistic about our dreams as well as our limitations.