Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. was released centuries ago in 2001 and drew tears from little kids long after they outgrew the age where it was socially acceptable to cry in public (maybe just me). Now that these little kids have all grown up and left for college it made sense for the monsters (who were fully grown at the time) to age backwards and do the same, right?
Actually no, of course not. That’s a freaking stupid idea.
With the potential risk of credibility I’d consider Monsters, Inc. beloved enough to warrant a no-sequel doctrine (one of those movies that are so good you don’t want a prequel or sequel ruining them), and I haven’t watched it since I left the theater twelve years ago. Unfortunately the animated film gods (Pixeus) have demanded a prequel – but if we are stuck with one, we should be glad it at least captured the vivacious animation and humor of its predecessor. If only it hadn’t been forced to compromise its heart-plucking sentimentality because of a watered down premise.
Monsters University, the freshman to Inc.’s senior, teaches kids the unimportance of receiving a proper education as well as the story of how our favorite spherical, boogar-colored Cyclops Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and kitty James “Sulley” Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) first met. Ever since an arguably traumatic childhood incident Mike dreamed of being a Scarer (one who creeps into children’s rooms at night and harnesses their terrified screams as energy). He is accepted into Monsters U, the nation’s leading Scaring school, and meets Sulley, who is riding off his father’s success to become a Scarer himself, though he refuses to take a break from partying long enough to study.
A monstrous rivalry sparks between the two demons, but they are forced to work together as teammates in The Scare Games, a competition to prove their team the most terrifying on campus both of their futures at the school depends on. Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) threatens to kick them out of the school if they don’t scare up the trophy.
The film romps through its sometimes funny, sometimes half-hearted attempts to make children giggle as fast as the wildfire plot progresses. There’s not much to keep the parents bringing their children entertained (or anyone over the age of 12, really) beyond the imaginative animation of the polychromatic “monsters,” except perhaps a few cameo appearances of characters from the original movie, including the antagonist Randall (voiced by Steve Buscemi in a dress). The plot avoids becoming numb and predictable like children’s films are capable of, but never extends beyond a delighted simplicity. Not that it needed to.
The film is preceded by short film The Blue Umbrella, an engaging premise that fizzles into an unadventurous boy-sees-girl, boy-wants-girl cornball after the charm from the cuddly photorealistic visuals wears off.
Mike Wazowski’s GPA rises once Monsters U is behind him. Monsters U would have been better off unattached to a name it had little chance of living up to. Knocked off the Dean’s list.