Pixar have had mixed luck with sequels and franchises with the likes of Toy Story 2 and 3 proving masterclasses in the art of the sequel, and others like Cars 2 proving less successful. Fortunately the company’s prequel to Monsters Inc., Monsters University falls into a similar category as the Toy Story sequels.
Monsters University follows the young Mike Wazowski’s (Billy Crystal) dream to become a scarer at Monsters Incorporated. Mike’s mission leads him to Monsters University where he meets over-confident slacker James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) – with the pair fast becoming rivals.
Dan Scanlon’s feature-length directorial debut for Pixar is a truly impressive one – managing to provide a loving welcome back to Mike and Sully, whilst continuing to pursue fresh and original ground for the characters. The university element of his screenplay may fall prey to some ‘college film’ clichés in its portrayal of fraternity houses and competitions, yet this still retains a sense of freshness thanks to some hints of Pixar magic.
Monsters University provides us with a whole palette of instantly loveable new characters from mature student Don to Squishy and his mother Mrs. Squibbles, each given time to shine and some terrific comic dialogue and set-pieces – my personal favourite being when the sweet Mrs. Squibbles decides to listen to her ‘tunes’ which turns out to be terrifying death-metal. However, it is Mike and Sully that continue to be the most endearing part of this prequel. Fans will no doubt love seeing how the pair came to be great friends in a narrative that is as touching and heartfelt as it is amusing. Viewers will also pick up on the plentiful references to Monsters Inc. including appearances from some unforgettable supporting characters.
Billy Crystal and John Goodman pack so much personality and electricity into the characters through their pitch perfect vocal performances, supported by some stunning animation. Monsters University is a truly vibrant watch with slick, yet incredibly vibrant aesthetic – however, this cannot help but appear lessened by the film’s forgettable 3D with the glasses providing an unflattering greyish tint to the otherwise stunning visuals.
Whilst it is a wonderfully entertaining watch, Monsters University still feels like a slight step down from Pixar’s high-points like Toy Story 3 and the original Monsters Inc. in terms of originality and emotional impact. However, it is a huge step up from Brave and Cars 2 and enough to reassure viewers that Pixar are well and truly back in business.
Release Date: 23rd June 2013 (EIFF) 12th July 2013 (UK)
Stars: Billy Crystal, John Goodman,Helen Mirren, Steve Buscemi, Alfred Molina
Director: Dan Scanlon