If you are looking to talk some mess about Pixar movies, look elsewhere. Monsters University was a nice trek down memory lane, if Memory Lane was written by Tim Metcalfe. It’s Revenge Of The Nerds; Pixarified! Or any other good fraternity movie from the 80’s. This archangelic prequel will grab your attention, then hold onto it while it plays non-alcoholic beer pong.
The movie follows our old, yet very young, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) in his adventures at Monsters University. It all starts when a child-like eyeball goes on a field trip with his class to tour the Monsters Incorporated building. When he witnesses his first live scare, it’s all over for little Mike; he has found his calling; or rather screaming.
We fast forward to Mike as a college freshman meeting his dorm roommate, Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi). You may remember him as the rival to Sully in Monsters Inc. There are plenty of these types of characters to look out for throughout the movie. Mike has huge aspirations regardless of his small stature. He wants to be the best scarer in history, but he knows that will take a lot of work. It isn’t until we meet several NEW characters that we finally catch up with James P. Sullivan (John Goodman); who isn’t exactly the Sully we remember. He’s sort of an aloof, lazy version of his future self. Coming from the legacy that is his father, Sully has little interest in challenging the Sullivan name. He has a natural scaring ability, but no ambition to perfect the art. This is of course where Mike and Sully butt heads. Mike does nothing but study and Sully wants nothing but to join the best fraternity on campus; the Roar Omega Roars. They handle their differences by simply walking away from each other until they both fail their Scare Exams and are removed from the Scare Program by Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). Mike sees his chance to get in Dean Hardscrabble’s good graces by joining the Oozma Kappa Fraternity (OK) and competing in the Scare Games in order to earn his way back into the Scare Program. Unfortunately for him, Sully becomes the 6th member of the OK frat and competes alongside Mike.
It isn’t that Monsters University brings anything new to the table for Pixar. Nor does it really compare emotionally to the other films in Pixars collection. What it does is bring Billy Crystal and John Goodman back together again for another unequivocal comedy powerhouse. The team works so well together that you can ignore the fact that there was no real reason for another Monsters movie. By the time Mike and Sully are in the same room together, you have already mused over your love for them in Monsters Inc. to the point where you long for their dynamic to be explored again. The new characters you are introduced to in the meantime are such natural additions to the cast, they don’t seem incongruous or contrived at all. It legitimately feels like an 80’s frat flick to the tune of a PG Animal House; in a good way!
The rest of this cast was killer, as well. I heard the voices of some of my favorite actors and comedians and it was pleasant to imagine them as the characters they played. Some were easier to imagine than others. Aubrey Plaza playing the gothed out Greek Council President alongside Nathan Fillion as the jock football player are perfect examples. Joel Murray, Dave Foley, Charlie Day, and even SNL’s Bobby Moynihan all lend their voices to the cast and they each stick out in their own way. One moment where they briefly touch on the squinting Randall Boggs played by Steve Buscemi had me nearly rolling on the floor.
Monsters University ultimately shines through its familiarity. The characters are recognizable even though its parallel is over 10 years old. There are no deviations from what you would expect from a frat movie but it certainly didn’t feel like a Pixar film. It may not have the emotive resonance to that of the Toy Story franchise, but there are enough adult laughs and child lessons to warrant a family theatre going event. It may even be the best animated movie of the summer but it’s too early to tell. For being everything I wanted in a prequel to one of my favorite Pixar experiences, I give Monsters University 5 out of 5 Nerdskulls.
Check out the trailer:
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