Just three years ago, following the release of Toy Story 3, Pixar was considered an immaculate filmmaking machine as well as the best studio in the world. Then came Cars 2, which turned out to be the studio’s first film with a majority of negative reviews. Then came Brave. While the film was quite a strong effort, the film received a large backlash due to it being too much like a Disney princess movie (does it matter what type of movie it is if it’s good?) and whether or not it handled its feminist character correctly (a bogus controversy). So that left it to Monsters University to truly turn the ship around for Pixar. That was a little concerning to me as I thought the first film was one of Pixar’s worse efforts and there aren’t many good prequels out there. However, Monsters University turns out to be a decent film that uses its prequel roots better than most films would. Despite it being very lightweight there is a lot to like.
Monsters University follows Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) as he grows up dreaming of attending Monsters University and becoming a scarer. When he finally gets to Monsters University, however, he finds himself getting into trouble with Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) and ultimately being kicked out of the university. With his dream destroyed, Mike tries one last attempt at keeping his dream alive by competing in the Scare Game. In order to win, he will have to put his differences aside with Sulley. The film is directed by Dan Scanlon (directing his first feature length film) and is written by Scanlon, Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird.
The Monsters Inc. world has always been one of the harder universes created by Pixar to get into so there were a bunch of roadblocks in getting this film to be good. While Dan Scanlon and company create a bunch of interesting characters (all voiced to perfection, which is usually the case for Pixar films) you are still left trying to find ways to get into this world. It’s just a weird mix of a goofy world that will suddenly have its sad and tender moments. Luckily, unlike the first film, this one finds interesting ways to get the plot to its ending. We know how Mike and Sulley end up and yet you are left guessing until the very end about how they will get to that point. That is the real strength of the film: it’s ability to plot a story that has an ending we already know.
Monsters University is lightweight Pixar, but it’s still an enjoyable time at the theater.