While most people can’t wait for school to get out, this year was the opposite: people couldn’t wait for school—that is Monsters University—to start! Well, after an impressive media campaign and much anticipation from fans, the big moment is finally here: Monsters University is open for summer!
Monsters University is a prequel to the 2001 Pixar hit Monsters Inc and follows the story of Mike and Sulley as they attend university to pursue their dreams of become “scarers” (basically equivalent to rock stars in the monster world). Mike–a gangly, nerdy, ambitious, one-eyed monster–has been dreaming of attending MU since he was a wee lad; however, on the surface, he doesn’t seem to be scary enough and have what it takes to become a world-class scarer, so he turns to hard work and studying to make his dreams come true. James P. Sullivan, or Sulley, on the other hand, strolls into MU knowing that his studies will be a breeze since he comes from a famous pedigree of scarers.
My favorite part of the film was the first 30 minutes, where we are introduced to the new world of the Monsters University campus. This world is not unfamiliar to us, since this is our second foray into the Monsters universe; however, it feels fresh and exciting. The scene where Mike walks on campus for the first time reminded me of my first time walking onto my college campus. As Mike strolls around, I too became a wide-eyed freshman, taking in every aspect of the college: the campus, architecture, atmosphere and students. The overall design of this film is absolutely breathtaking. The Pixarians clearly took time developing a world that was entrenched in monsterdom. Although many of these details are blink-and-you-miss-it types, still keep your eyes peeled for these expertly crafted monster nuances.
Characters, characters, characters. Pixar is notoriously good for creating strong main and side characters that carry the film. Monsters University is no different. While we already are familiar with Mike and Sulley, we’re able to see different facets of their personalities and development, helping us to better understand their struggles.
If you’re looking for some of your favorite old characters from Monsters Inc., they do make small appearances here and there. But they aren’t the focus of the plot, which is nice because it allows time to focus on new characters. Speaking of, I loved the new characters, particularly the members of Oozma Kappa (OK) fraternity. My favorite new character, by far, was the questionable hippie Art. All the students fit into different college student archetypes, which when personified as monsters just make you laugh out loud. We’ve all met a Don Carlton, the middle-aged guy going back to college; Scott Squibbles, the undeclared major who still lives in his mom’s basement; and Terry and Terri Perry, the twins who are complete opposites.
Other students were just as fun as our main gang. Much of the film focuses on a competition between the fraternities and sororities called the Scare Games. Each frat has its own unique vibe—goth frat, dorky frat, jock frat—but the most interesting to me was the Python Nu Kappa (PNK) sorority. All six of sorority sisters are exactly the same (except for a few differences in color): 3 eyes, shoulder-length hair, same height, weight, etc. It was interesting that every monster in the film is completely different and unique—like a snowflake, no two monsters are the same—except for these girls. To me, this blaring homogeneity was a commentary on your typical sorority girl, who tries to conform to the others in order to fit in and be cool, rather than expressing and accepting yourself (like Oozma Kappa).
Monsters University explores the theme of talent versus hard work. Is raw talent all you need to be a success? Or can you succeed without an ounce of talent as long as you work hard enough? Is one way superior the other? Pixar tackles this theme in an interesting way because Mike and Sulley represent both sides of the coin and we want both of them to succeed. Sulley realizes that his talent can’t carry him any further, so he has to turn to Mike to teach him what he couldn’t teach himself. The opposite happens for Mike: he can study and memorize scaring tactics for months on end, but is that enough for him to acheive his dream?
I’ve noticed it’s a trend of animated sequels to hang on the merits of the first film. The jokes, gags, and even plots that made the original successful are rehashed and thrown back into the sequel. Monsters University does not suffer from this. MU is it’s own unique story. Wihle at times there are references to old jokes and moments, they are few and far between (making them that much sweeter).
Towards the end of the movie, I began to be disappointed how it was wrapping up. The way it was going seemed so predictable and un-Pixar. But then things got turned upside down, Pixar used its magic ward, and everything shaped up and tied together with an interesting bow. I especially loved how seamlessly the two movies are linked and tied together—it’s satisfying and fun.
If I could review this film in a few words it would be: awesomely unexpected. If you think you know where Monsters University is going and how it will end, you’re wrong. And that’s what makes Pixar and its films so special: they break the typical Hollywood mold to which we have become oh-so accustomed.
Monsters University is a fun movie for kids and adults. If you have kids, take them to see it; if you’re single, see it with your friends; if you’re married, see if with your spouse–all age groups and demographics will enjoy this movie and will not leave disappointed. Everything you love about Pixar films are here: great characters, fantastic plot, laugh-out-loud humor, and a whole lot of heart. There’s no question that Monsters University is the must-see movie of summer 2013!
What did you think of Monsters University? Write your mini review in the comments below!
Morgan is an Arizona native who's had a lifelong passion for animation. Her favorite animated films are Aladdin, Beauty & the Beast, and The Iron Giant. She earned an MBA in Marketing from Arizona State University and now runs her own business where she coaches and trains entrepreneurs how to launch, grow & scale successful online businesses.