Monsters University (2013)

Monsters UniversityMike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) has always wanted to be a Scarer, at least since he visited Monsters Incorporated on a school trip and met his idol, “Frightening” Frank McCay (John Krasinski). After years of studying, Mike finally enrolls at Monsters University, befriending new roommate Randal (Steve Buscemi) and butting horns with entitled class clown James P. Sullivan (John Goodman). When their rivalry leads to their expulsion by headmistress Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), however, they must join a fraternity — Oozma Kappa — and work together to win the Scare Games if they are to be allowed to rejoin the programme.

It’s been difficult to like the Pixar of recent years; at least, not to quite the same extent as before. In the beginning the brand was a standard of unwavering quality and uncompromised fun, but their once-characteristic innocence and reliability has since wavered with last-minute directorial reshuffles, arrogant interviews and uninspiring films. After over a decade of new and original projects, it was the announcement of several sequels and a Disney princess movie that jarred most.

Thankfully, Monsters University feels like something of a return to form — a sequel (well, prequel) that ranks closer to Toy Story 2 in terms of quality than the studio’s weakest film, Cars 2. It may not reach original film Monsters Inc‘s emotional highs — although there is undoubtedly a satisfying character arc at its centre — but Monsters University comes close to equaling it in comedy, perhaps even surpassing it.

There are moments in Pixar’s latest that are pant-wettingly funny, up there with the very best of the studio’s extant output — largely down to their commitment to making a traditional college comedy. Whether it’s a university initiation interrupted by a noisy tumble-dryer or a Carrie-esque fraternity prank at Oozma Kappa’s expense, Monsters University maintains a successful gag-rate unseen since Finding Nemo, and unmatched since Dory tried to convince Marlin that she could speak whale.

This is largely due to Pixar’s decision to make a prequel, tracking its characters back in time to their student days. When we meet Sully and Randal they are as removed as it is possible to get from the characters we know from Monsters Inc, while various other cameos draw on a similar subversion of expectation to often hilarious effect. Mike meanwhile is just as we remember him, only this time he’s struggling to overcome the inescapable fact that he’s just not scary.

What’s particularly impressive is the way in which Pixar has expanded the original film’s world. Opening with a field trip to Monsters Incorporated, it quickly whisks us away to the university, introducing us to a whole host of new characters that it is simply impossible not to love. Of the new additions, Helen Mirren’s principle makes the biggest impression, while Julia Sweeney steals every scene she’s in as Sherri Squibbles, mother of Oozma Kappa’s Scott.

Prequels have had a colourful history in cinema, perhaps more so than their sequel relations. With Monsters University, however, Pixar succeed in recreating one of its most famous friendships despite some pretty fundamental changes to its characters. Smart, funny and touching, Monsters University puts Pixar back on top.

4-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

2 Responses to Monsters University (2013)

  1. Pingback: June 2013 – Wait, I feel like I should say something important | popcornaddict

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