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Monsters University - Film Review

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by Richard Leathem (subscribe)
Freelance writer. Melbourne based cinephile. Fond of food.
Published June 22nd 2013
Sulley and Mike go back to school
Director: Dan Scanlon
Cast of voices: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren

The ideas are mostly of the visual kind in Pixar's first prequel, Monsters University, an entertaining but narratively rote re-visiting of the Monsters, Inc characters.

monsters university billy crystal mike wazowski
Mike Wazowski on his first day at uni

As the title informs, we are taken back to the university days of Sulley and Mike Wazowski, which affords Pixar the opportunity to populate the screen with a rich palette of details in way of subsidiary characters. In so doing, we the audience have plenty to look and giggle at. As far as a plot goes however, it's a pretty standard take on protagonists learning to believe in themselves.
It's nice to have a tale that celebrates the idiosyncrasies in individuals, but it's a pity the writers didn't feel inspired to inject the script with the kind of layered cleverness that the best of Pixar films are famous for.

monsters university billy crystal mike wazowski sulley john goodman
Sulley, Wazowski and the obligatory university mascot pig

Although friends in the first film, it was really the conflicting natures of Sulley and Mike that drove the story and provided the humour. The writers have been smart enough to make them foes in the prequel, which ramps up the conflict and allows them time to learn to complement each other's strengths and work as a team. Their fellow team-mates in this Hogwarts-like challenge environment are a lame but amusing selection of social mis-fits who only make it harder for our two heroes to become the legendary scaring team we know them to be.

monsters university dean hardscrabble helen mirren
Helen Mirren voices the impressively creepy university dean

The most impressive new characters though are the creepily, bat/crustacean hybrid Dean Hardscrabble, voiced by Helen Mirren, and an imposingly hoary old librarian with tentacles who strikes fear into the sturdiest of monster students.

It may be unfair to expect Monsters, University to be as good as its predecessor. It isn't, but neither is it just a blatant cash-in on the brand. It's simply a great-looking, but only passably entertaining new adventure with old pals. If one of the morals within the story is to learn to know your limits, maybe we should just accept the film for what it is.

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