Sunday, 23 June 2013

Film Review: Monsters University

Pixar rewind the clock and send the loveable stars of Monsters Inc., Mike and Sully, off to university so that they can get educated before they are incorporated. The big question is, how does this latest Pixar feature stack up? Has the studio got their mojo back or are they just treading water?

As a prequel to 2001's Monsters Inc., Pixar have rolled the dice a little. Prequels are most often inferior and unliked in comparison to the original. Think X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Prometheus or Underworld: Rise of the Lycans - all pale in comparison to their predecessors.

In Monsters University, Pixar have taken one of their most beloved properties in the hope that audiences will once again be won over by the antics of Mike Wasowski and James Sullivan. Couple this with some gorgeous animations (as always), rosy-eyed and nostalgic script writing and belly-laughs for all ages and Monsters University is a riot. The roll of the dice has paid off nicely for Pixar.

Firstly, it is worth noting that the premise of sending Mike and Sully back to university is not one that is hugely original; in fact, the first 90 minutes of this film are as predictable and signposted as you would expect from a film set on the stereotypical American college campus.

It's a little bit like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer enrols at Springfield University. All the common clichés and troupes are included, right down to the mascot of the rival university being stolen (yes, it's a pig).

It's in the films final third that the Pixar-ness really starts to kick in. In fact, the final half an hour escalates Monsters University from ho-hum to fantastic. The writers effectively side-step a predictable and clichéd ending and replace it one with tons more heart and character by plunging the duo into the human world for the first time. On reflection, it would have been more effective if the film had allowed the duo to reach the story's climax earlier. This would have allowed the sequences in the human world to develop further, rather than rush by.

It's worth noting that the animation and vibrant colour palette used in Monsters University is one of the film's biggest drawcards. With all manner of creepy crawlies populating the screen, the visuals really give the film a distinctive look. The voice acting from Billy Crystal (Mike), John Goodman (Sully), Steve Buscemi (Randy) and Helen Mirren (Dean Hardscrabble) is top-notch, as expected.

Kids, as expected, will love this film. Despite being about monsters, Mike and Sully are as cute and adorable as ever. Even Randell is kinda cuddly with his big dorky glasses. Parents shouldn't be apprehensive when weighing up taking kids to see Monsters University, there isn't anything here that'll cause nightmares.

Probably the biggest criticism you can have of Monsters University is that it plays it a little too safe; like I said  earlier, the plot in the opening 90 minutes plods along nicely, but it isn't the audacious and original writing audiences have come to expect from the studio who brought you WALL-E or Up. The film too heavily relies upon familiar and recognisable genre troupes and stereotypes; the nerds, the jocks, the emos, the oddballs.

Also, it feels like the characterisation of Sully feels tacked onto the end; he doesn't resemble the cuddly and caring animal we see in Monsters Inc. until the credits are already rolling. On the other hand, Mike's character arc was handled nicely and paced almost to perfection.

At the end of the day, you can't help but feel sorry for Pixar. They can't seem to make a great movie without critics rushing to complain that it isn't superb or ground-breaking. Yes, Monsters University is not as good as Up, Toy Story or Finding Nemo. But it is a great film, on the same level of The Incredibles or even the original Monsters Inc. Don't let the naysayers put you off; Monsters University is worth seeing in cinemas and not a let-down in the slightest.

I give Monsters University: 7/10


  1. Very good Prequel to Monsters Inc. Even those who have not watched Monsters Inc. can go for it.

    1. Thanks for your comment Rahul! It is a good prequel, something which doesn't usually happen! Check back soon for more new release film reviews!



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