Welcome back Pixar, welcome back. I’ll start by saying that my all time favorite Pixar movie is Monsters Inc. The best thing Pixar has going for it is it’s original stories and characters. Monsters Inc. does this better than any of its’ other films. Monsters University is a prequel to Monsters Inc. (obviously). The beginnings of Mike and Sully’s relationship that we all love are explored and it’s done almost perfectly.
Monsters University starts off with Mike Wazowski as a young kid on a field trip to the Monsters Inc. scare factory. Right from the first scene we are sucked into his view of the world. He believes he can achieve anything. Essentially this is how we all felt at one point in our lives. This is Pixar doing what they do best…making us care for the characters. The main plot essentially involves Mike and Sully battling each other to become the best scarer then something goes wrong and they have to team up yada yada yada (Seinfeld!). The story isn’t exactly original but does it need to be? I mean, the point of a prequel is to show you how these characters got to where they are. However, it’s a lot easier said than done. Taking two great characters and giving them a back story involves great risk. If you screw these characters up then you essentially almost tarnish the original movie (Ex. Star Wars Prequels). You need not worry because what makes Monster’s University thrive is the execution and storytelling.
For much of the movie we know where it’s going but does that not mean we can’t have fun along the way? Of course not. The movie plays off the college lifestyle cleverly by giving us tons of adult jokes and showing nearly every college stereotype in hilarious fashion. As a current college student, I had plenty of laughs because I felt like I was in on the joke. Don’t worry because the humor is definitely accessible to all different ages (another Pixar trademark). I think this is the clear cut winner as the funniest Pixar movie to date. I was constantly laughing every five minutes! The humor masks the unoriginal plot but it’s still a very fun ride.
The supporting characters are very well written as stereotypes of college students but while they deliver laughs they also feel fleshed out and real. Something that will probably be overlooked. I cared for these smaller characters because they’re written so well and propel the plot. They are actually quite important to the success of the movie when you consider how much they add. If these characters aren’t there or fail then the movie falls flat. On a technical level the animation is fantastic. The animators had a great use of colors that gave this movie a fun and heartwarming tone. The college looked exactly like a college campus but just in monster universe! The movement of characters during action scenes was very fluid and coherent as well. Bravo! All this is just icing on the cake and the cake is what makes this story worth telling.
The heart (or cake?) and driving force of this movie is Mike and Sully’s relationship as we see it grow through the scare games and other tribulations along the way. Their relationship is built often through conflict which is an excellent way to build characters. That’s what Monsters Inc. did so well. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The movie can get to an emotionally intimate level as well with its characters. There’s a great range of writing from the screenwriters for these characters. Billy Crystal and John Goodman deserve some love for helping bring these characters to life with their distinct voices!
The story feels as though it’s Pixars most small and intimate which is refreshing to see. I think the problems with Cars 2 and Brave were that it attempted too much within the story. Monsters University goes back to the basics and delivers a heartfelt and sometimes daring movie. It’s a bit to similar to Monsters Inc. at points and It doesn’t take a whole lot of chances throughout but in a way that helps this movie get to its highest gear. I say this because (MINOR SPOILER!) the movies third act actually caught me quite off guard and raised this movie to new heights as the themes built up progress even further while delivering a fairly daring and profound message. I just think a little more of this during the first and second act could have elevated the story and made it more compelling.
It may not shine with originality but the execution is what makes this feel original and fresh. For my money, these are the best Pixar’s characters and they’re given a great back story loaded with laughs and heart along the way. The movie captures what it’s like to have a sense of wonder as though things will turn out just how you want. It equally captures how that is not actually the case in the real world and it tells the audience all of this in fantastic fashion. Monsters University is has strong storytelling and handles its characters with more depth and care than most of the summer movies I’ve seen this year, which is why it elevates itself above the basic premise. It’s clearly the best animation of the year and just a damn good move in general. Now please give us Monsters Inc. 2!