Twelve years ago (has it really been that long?), Pixar Animation introduced us to Mike and Sully, a pair of monsters who were just trying to get along in the world, working for a “scream company,” Monsters Incorporated, this ensured there was power for the monster world.
We discovered that “scarers” were the elite monsters of their world, using teleportation doors to travel into the bedrooms of sleeping children, scaring them and extracting their screams to be used as the power source that made their world operate. But, children were considered toxic, and “scaring” was a dangerous job that not just any monster could do.
Sully, as it were, was the penultimate scarer. Mike was his set-up man. But, as good as they were, they couldn’t compete with the scare shortage that was threatening their world. Soon, they found themselves in the midst of a plot by their company to game the system.
Like all good Pixar films, there was a lesson to be learned, if you were open to it. In this case, we’re taught the value of sticking with one’s family through thick and thin.
Fast-forward to 2013, and we’re (finally) transported back to the monster world. In “Monsters University,” the prequel to the 2001 hit “Monsters Inc.,” we discover how all of the characters from the previous film are pieced together; where they come from, and how they become the monsters we saw in the previous film.
Without giving away more than necessary, all of the characters go through a tremendous amount of change to become the monsters we know from the first movie. For starters, Mike and Sully aren’t friends. In fact, they’re bitter rivals. And, how they eventually come together and become inseparable buddies is a learning process for the audience, as well.
Among the positive messages: don’t judge others by what you see, a team that works together is stronger than the sum of its individuals, never give up and (my personal favorite) sometimes, you have to work harder than you expected to achieve your goals.
Billy Crystal and John Goodman provide the voices of Mike and Sully, respectively, while Steve Buscemi is back as Randal Boggs. We have some new monsters, including the appropriately named Dean Hardscrabble (voiced by Dame Helen Miren) and Professor Knight (Alfred Molina), as well as the monsters of Roar-Omega-Roar and Oozma-Kappa.
Dan Scanlon directs the story written by Robert Baird, who assisted with the story for the original film. The story they’ve weaved won’t rip your heart out at times like the original, but it still has plenty of emotion. And there are more than a few laughs along the way, as well — without dipping into the “college debauchery” cliché well.
All in all, it is a film that will delight every member of the family. And they’ll learn something useful, too, making “Monsters University” a true institution of higher learning.
Stay until the end
Make sure you stay through all the credits (it’s animated, so they are long) for a funny little “extra.” If you’re paying attention throughout the film, you will see how one MU student’s journey begins and ends.
‘The Little Blue Umbrella’
The Pixar Short leading up to the main feature, “The Little Blue Umbrella” is perhaps the most disappointing Pixar short ever. It’s pretty much a rehash of Disney’s “Paperman,” except with two umbrellas, as observed by an assortment of streetlights, mailboxes and rain gutters that can make faces.