Monsters University, Review

Pixar waxes poetic about that special time in every monster's life. Children will smile and adults will reminisce.

Oh, how I remember college. Several years out, I feel like I am putting on my wistful glasses to think about times on the quad and how much simpler life was back in the “good ol’ days.” It may be naïve to ponder this, but it feels like Pixar is also waxing nostalgic in their newest release Monsters University. When Monsters Inc. came out, there were not any of these new-fangled 3D glasses (which are barely used in this release) nor had the double-edged reputation that every year meant a new Pixar masterpiece been set in stone. Now, every studio is in the computer generated animation game and they all cast celebrity voices, not unlike Billy Crystal and John Goodman in the aforementioned Monsters classic. Also, fan and cynic alike have their knives out for this generation’s dream factory. Thus, it is not surprising that there were some raised eyebrows when Disney and Pixar announced the prequel Monsters University, which opens today. Luckily, I am here to say that all is well and like a trip back to your favorite campus hangout, this is a trek down memory lane worth savoring. Especially with all the young ones around, enjoying this world for the first time. Monsters University goes back to the very beginning for Mike Wazowski (Crystal) and James P. “Sully” Sullivan (Goodman). Back to even before they were friends. Mikey, having fantasized about being a scarer ever since a life-altering field trip to Monsters Inc., has just achieved the first step of his dream: become a student at Monsters University. Step Two? Graduate and become the greatest scarer the world has ever seen.
 Unfortunately, for all his academic passion for the subject, his short stature and Miracle Max voice makes him about as frightening as a hug from a unicorn. Conversely, Sully hails from a long line of famous scarers and seems poised to drift through the Scaring Program due to his raw talent. An instant rivalry forms when Roar Omega Roar’s leader Johnny Worthington (Nathan Fillion) inducts Sully into their fraternity for an accomplishment Mike achieved. Their rivalry grows so monstrous that it causes Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) of the Scaring School to throw them out of her program. Only after scholarly humiliation and being alienated from their supposed friends do Mike and Sully form a lifelong bond. With the help of the loser frat, Oozma Kappa—which includes lovable oddballs voiced by Joel Murray, Charlie Day, Sean Hayes and David Foley—the duo sets out to prove Hardscrabble wrong about their worth. Together they will enter the Scare Games, an informal campus competition, to frighten, sneak and disgust their way back into the Scaring School and university legend. Monsters University is a trip back in time for Pixar and coincidentally their audience. Despite the Toy Story Trilogy being widely regarded as one of the best three-film sets ever compiled, Cars 2 left all involved a bit disappointed. There was newspaper hand ringing as to whether Pixar had lost their edge. Fortunately, like a house floating from a few thousand balloons, that is little more than angst-ridden hot air. Unlike most prequels, Monsters University works on its own terms to deliver an experience at least in the same league and ballpark of its predecessor. From the beginning, the miracle of animation can hide how NOT fresh-faced Crystal and Goodman have become. Just as two men in their 50s could believably sound like a couple of blue collar wiseguys busting their hellholes for the company, in their 60s they can pass for a couple of collegiate archetypes ready to turn into some real party animals.