If nothing told us anything about Pixar for the past two years it is that, Pixar has lost their streak of quality animated films and compromised the fact that they are mortal. Monsters University is Pixar’s second shot at making a film that is either a prequel or a sequel (hurry up with the Incredibles 2 movie). With Monsters University in theaters right now it does show that the Pixar we know and love is slowly coming back to the best qualities we loved about Pixar.
In Monsters University, Pixar takes us back to the world behind our children’s bedroom closets as it shows our two protagonists from the first film, Mike Wazowski and James Sullivan return to the big screen in their younger years as they attend college in the most prestigious universities of their world, Monsters University. Mike Wazowski has always dreamed of becoming a scarer and join the scaring program in Monsters University and there he meets a natural-born scarer named James P. Sullivan. As we know from the original Monsters Inc. they were best friends until the end (They wouldn’t have nothing without each other after all) but in this prequel it shows that they weren’t really the best of friends when they first met. But they must put rivalries aside when they are threatened to be kicked out of the University as they participate In the school’s “Scare Games” where they must not only prove to be the scariest monsters of the school but to also help their fraternity build up into something the university didn’t expect them to be in order to survive the games.
I was rather skeptical going in to this film, Monsters Inc. is one of those few animated films that I keep close to my heart and I do not want to see it get ruined right before my eyes. I had big expectations going in and at the same time was also stopping myself from judging it badly if it was because of Pixar’s recent track record. But as the first 5 minutes of the movie as it starts I find myself (actually) enjoying the movie and throughout the film there was this big smile on my face (it’s this feeling called “happiness”, I believe) which means that I did enjoy this movie from start to finish. Is it Pixar’s best or at least be as great as the original Monsters Inc? I can say that it is close to that level. Is it at least in the level of Pixar’s best? Not really but at least it’s not part of Pixar’s string of mediocrity.
The story of Monsters University is a solid one, it’s not really the deeply told animated coming-of-age film nor is it an original one as well, and it’s more like a family-friendly version of “Revenge of the Nerds”. The film is told in a rather familiar buddy-underdog-formula that we have seen being told in past films. One can say that the formula has been done to death but for the film it is actually an advantage and it did work in the long-run in order to tell the story of how two friends came to be and the antics they have to go through as they build the relationship that we have seen from this film’s previous predecessor. Throughout the movie you can literally sniff the things that are about to happen, but there was that one twist that surprised me and there were some clever nods of the original Monsters Inc. throughout the film that will get you off guard (a couple of cameos made me laugh).
The film brings a decent amount of depth and heart to the formula and it did result to an entertaining animated film as a whole. At some point of the film, I wanted to complain of it having a cookie cutter ending by that one particular part of the third act that I thought would end from there, but there was this (closer to being mind-blowing) plot twist that surprised me and I thought it ended that way perfectly. The movie is not as genuinely funny as Monsters Inc., It wasn’t necessarily unfunny as a whole, there were jokes that fell flat though the film’s comedic element is more clever in-jokes that most monsters do in the background (which is better than car puns in Cars 2, that’s for sure) than it being laugh-out-loud funny (but I did laugh at Squishy during his scare simulation).
Pixar came a long way from making humans look like deformed plastic toys themselves to now where they can actually put humans (that looks like exaggeratedly designed humans), objects, and creatures in a very colorful yet believable setting. The animation is beautiful for this film, vibrant colors, tons of things to look at every inch of detail and also the designs of the monsters are very unique and creative. I like how they made Mike and Sully (and a few cameos from the past films) look young in this prequel and most of the monsters in the film are both genuinely scary and creatively designed.
I can’t really go in to detail with the voice casting that much because the voice acting in this movie is very top-notch. Each character had a fitting voice and I would give props to the voice actors for that. It’s good to hear Billy Crystal and John Goodman in the sound booth again as Mike and Sully. Billy Crystal returns with a really high-pitched version of Mike Wazowski. Newcomers like Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscrabble was great despite the fact that her character is a bit under-used. Peter Sohn as Squishy, Joel Murray as Don, Sean Hayes and David Foley as Terri and Terry and also Charlie Day as Art were all great as the outcast frat members of Oozma Kappa; the writing gave them some genuinely funny antics with those characters throughout the film. Lastly, Nathan Fillion as Johnny Worthington of the big fraternity of the film was a good villain in the film, he is the generic frat-bully, he did some things that people like him would do in movies like Animal House or (again) Revenge of the Nerds.
In the end, Monsters University is nothing original but enjoyable nonetheless. From this movie I can tell that Pixar is slowly coming back to their roots and they did deliver a solid prequel from its beloved predecessor. Pixar never goes wrong with the CGI-Animation from its attention to detail and ingenuity. The writing is solid as they take advantage of the generic buddy formula to deliver an entertaining film with its. Fans of the original Monsters Inc. will be happy that “Monsters University” is in fact a very good movie; just don’t expect this to be as great as the original.