Ten years before MONSTERS INC., Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) are freshmen at Monsters University, enrolled in the “scare” program. After they flunk out, their only hope of readmission is to win the university “Scare Games” for which they’re paired up with the geekiest fraternity on campus, Oozma Kappa.
REVIEW: Could it be that Pixar has peaked? After an incredible run of movies that included THE INCREDIBLES, RATATOUILLE, UP, WALL-E (their masterpiece) and TOY STORY 3, the studio has seemingly lost its magic. BRAVE was pretty good, but CARS 2 was loud and obnoxious. While MONSTERS UNIVERSITY certainly isn’t Pixar’s nadir, it’s shockingly mediocre, as it’s little more than an eighties college comedy, albeit G-rated, animated, and populated by monsters.
The main conflict in MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is that Mike, while a smart, creative A-student, just isn’t scary. I dunno- to me a giant green eyeball is a lot scarier than the other cuddly monsters like Sulley with his purple polka-dots. In order to graduate, Mike has to figure out a way to be scary, even though kids improbably find him cute. Somewhere in here there’s a message hidden for kids about how they should recognize their limitations and understand that all dreams don’t necessarily come true, although often hard work can make up for talent. Of course, being that we’ve all seen MONSTERS INC., it’s pretty obvious that Mike and Sulley’s dreams of frightening children by becoming “scarers” come true.
The message is all well and good (although I don’t think kids should ever aspire to mediocrity- just sayin’) but the problem with MONSTERS UNIVERISTY is that it’s just not funny. While the animation is up to Pixar’s usual standards, did MONSTERS INC., really need a follow-up? Even worse, they made it a “campus comedy” which is a genre that was tired twenty years ago, and hasn’t gotten any fresher. Heck, they even put the guys in a geeky frat, and pit them against letter-jacket wearing jocks (with their leader voiced by Nathan Fillion). Basically it’s REVENGE OF THE NERDS, but not as funny.
Being a Pixar movie, MONSTERS UNIVERITY obviously isn’t a total loss. Like in MONSTERS INC., Goodman and Crystal make for an entertaining animated buddy-pair. Crystal’s always been an insanely manic guy, so he’s perfect voicing a seventeen-year-old Mike. As per her recent typecasting, Helen Mirren plays the stern, cruel University dean (a centipede scare champion), and while it’s her usual ice-queen routine, it can’t be said that she’s not ideal voice casting for the part. I also liked MAN MEN/ GOD BLESS AMERICA’s Joel Murray as Oozma Kappa’s resident mature student, a former salesman newly laid off (I guess the recession exists in Pixar-land too) and trying to fit in with the much younger students.
Still, it can’t be denied that MONSTERS UNIVERITY is really lame as far as Pixar movies go.It still works pretty well for the kiddies, who will like the candy-colored Pixar universe and cuddly monsters, but their parents will be bored. It’s not awful, but the non-Pixar, Disney flick WRECK-IT RALPH was a lot better than this and more in line with the kind of movies they should be making.