Monsters University

Monsters University
Starring the voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Helen Mirren
Directed by Dan Scanlon
Rated G

    In 2001’s classic Pixar film Monsters, Inc., we met Mike Wazowski (Crystal) and Sulley (Goodman) and we just had to assume they were always best friends.  Now, 12 years later, we find out the truth about their past in this prequel.  What we learn is that Mike has dreamed of being a scarer since he was a little kid and that Sulley was a spoiled brat who thought his size and genetics would easily land him on the scare floor, following in the footsteps of his father.  Once in college, though, both of their dreams are crushed and they must find a way to not only respect one another but actually work together as a team.  

    When I first heard Pixar was going back to one my favorite animated films for inspiration, I was a bit disappointed.  After all, a prequel would leave out the heart of the film: the little girl, Boo.  Also, upon view of the first trailer, the movie looked like more of a kids Revenge of the Nerds than a cinematically savvy piece of animation.  Needless to say – I was worried that the Pixar creativity machine had dried up.  After all, Cars 2 wasn’t as bad as it was accused of being but it was a step down for them.  And Brave did away with all of storytelling magic we were used to from Pixar.  We expect so much from Pixar and I was afraid that now, officially, the expectations would need to be permanently lowered. 

    Fortunately, I was wrong.  While Monsters University isn’t their best film, it manages to make itself much better than it deserves to be due to a good script, great voice talent and a lot of love.  And even without little Boo, we still get a movie that hits in all of the right emotional spots.  Part of what works is that Mike and Sulley are believable as enemies.  And the fact that you know what they eventually become has no bearing.  Having Mike be the against-all-odds character full of courage but no talent and Sulley as the lazy natural, brings them together in a wonderful way that even allows for both to have a nice character arc. 

    I’ll admit that the film isn’t nearly as good as Monsters, Inc. but its strongest attribute is its comedy.  The film is just flat out funny.  And for a G-rated picture that is saying something.  As you would expect, Crystal and Goodman have a great chemistry, but here it is the script that shines.  It’s clever where it needs to be and throws in the right ingredients at the right time to deliver the best film that it possibly can.   It never forgets what it is, but what it is works well. 

    So while I would have rather seen an original and truly brilliant Pixar film, settling for this new Monsters prequel isn’t a bad way to pass the time.  B+