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Review – Monsters University
July 2, 2013
For nearly 20 years, Pixar Studios have dominated the animation realm of cinema. They’ve met various challenges along the way and done remarkably well, including sequels and re-invention. However, with Monsters University, they’ve achieved something special; they’ve managed to make a prequel stand up as a worthwhile story on its own. Monster’s University is a simple story, and although imperfect, from the first minute the audience can breathe a sigh of relief because it works. It comes with all of the great characters, fantastic immersive animation, and highs and lows you’ve come to expect.
Monsters University is the prequel to Monsters Inc. (2001) and is set 10 years before the original film. It’s safe to say that Inc has already become a classic, so University has impossibly high expectations to deal with. It delves deep into the past of one of the most successful odd couple pairings in cinema – Mike and Sulley – an inseparable pair by the time of Inc but Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James ‘Sulley’ Sullivan (John Goodman) were not always as close. Monsters University takes us through their journey and how two polar opposites inevitably overcame a rough start. The film introduces us to the serious, academic Mike – a vulnerable bullied teenager that is eager to start college, work hard and become a ‘scarer’ and Sulley, who relies solely on his family name and size to glide through life. Inevitably they clash and become bitter rivals but when the pair are both threatened with expulsion, they are forced to come together to save both of their futures – a story which comes with a heaping of good moral lessons.
Within the first few minutes, anyone worried about it betraying the original will be put at ease. There’s a series of great gags, an establishment of the characters, and the rules of monster universe are set out, all of which round up a meticulous opening sequence, followed by a school visit to the famous Monsters Inc. factory. If Inc. was primarily Sulley’s story, then this is definitely Mikes, who despite working hard to follow his dream of becoming a scarer is continuously debilitated by his gentle appearance. Billy Crystal excels in this role and steals the show each time. There’s also the addition of Helen Mirren to the cast as the intimidating and monstrous University Dean. Although animations have never really mixed with college films before, it does come off as the perfect place for them. You get to show off the entire spectrum of the Monster realm, in addition to a great place for character development and you can see exactly why college films are a mainstay of Hollywood.
Of course, it’s never easy to compare a prequel to the predecessor, but if forced, you would say University does fall short. It lacks the human touch that Boo brought to Inc. as the adorable human child that throws Monsters Inc. into chaos. Also, the films’ references, from Revenge of the Nerds to Animal House, make the story a bit predictable and familiar. Yet despite this familiarity, the film continues to work and engage on so many levels. There are a few films out this summer with quite a weight of expectation, but Monster’s University is certainly one that delivers.
Monsters University opens in UK cinemas on 12th July.