The friends you make in college are the ones you make for life, right? Monsters University certainly thinks so, using the film as a prequel to Monsters, Inc. to tell the origin story behind how Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley’s (John Goodman) scare-tastic team came to be. After a class field trip to Monsters Inc., Mike sets his eyes (ahem, eye) on going to Monsters University and becoming a Scarer. The problem is – no one thinks Mike is scary. Despite his enthusiasm, things only get worse when he ends up in class with the large, brash Sulley, a monster who has the right look (and the famous Sullivan name to back it up), but who also has it out for “know-it-all” Mike.
After a mishap during their final, the rivalry and tension between Mike and Sulley only increases and Mike decides that entering the Scare Games is the only way to get his dream of becoming a Scarer back on track. But because you must be a part of a team to enter the games, Mike decides to join one of the less popular fraternities on campus, OK (Oozma Kappa), made up of the kooky middle-aged Don Carlton (Joel Murray), two-headed monster Terri and Terry Perry (Sean Hayes and Dave Foley), awkward Scott “Squishy” Squibbles (Peter Sohn), and laid-back goof Art (Charlie Day.) This rag tag group must come together to win the games, but before they can even enter, they need a sixth member – and that is where Sulley comes in.
Mike and Sulley find themselves forced to overcome their rivalry and band together to try and prove the school, and more importantly, headmistress Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), wrong about what it means to be truly scary. Monsters University does a good job filling in this back-story (along with some cute cameos from Monsters, Inc.) and adding the twist of Mike and Sulley starting out as rivals which works to make the tale of how they eventually become the good friends we met in Monsters, Inc. all the more compelling. But even if this is your first trip to Monstropolis, you do not need to have seen Monsters, Inc. to enjoy Monsters University. The prequel stands well on its own thanks to a bunch of well-rounded, fully realized characters and the new setting of a college campus rather than the Monsters Inc. factory.
The new characters are certainly fun and entertaining, but just as it was amusing to see where Mike and Sulley started, it would have been interesting to see where their four frat brothers ended up. Clocking in at almost two hours, Monsters University may be a bit long for younger viewers with shorter attention spans. However, much like Monsters, Inc., Monsters University keeps the literal scares to a minimum making this a kid friendly film while still including enough “grown-up” jokes to appeal to both younger and older audiences.
Pixar yet again delivers animation and visuals that pop off the screen (and all without needing 3D glasses) making Monsters University an enjoyable tale of how two monsters not only came to be, but also became friends.
The Upside: Solid prequel to Monsters, Inc. that also works on its own; fleshes out Mike and Sulley’s relationship while giving cute nods to other Monsters Inc. characters; Pixar’s beautiful graphics and animation keep things vibrant and fun.
The Downside: Would have liked to see where new characters ended up, not just those from Monsters, Inc.; a bit long for a film aimed at kids.
On the side: Disagreements between former Disney CEO, Michael Eisner, and Pixar CEO, Steve Jobs, delayed production on the film for five years before Monsters University‘s release date was finally announced in 2011.