Monsters University (2013) Review
A family movie aimed at children that is a prequel to Monsters Inc. Pixar has always been great at family movies with enough humor that children can find funny and underlying adult aspects that give the parents something to laugh about that only they understand. The movie focuses on Mike Wazowski who, after a field trip to Monsters Inc., the Monster Worlds version of a power plant where monsters scare children to produce scream energy that powers their world, wants to be a Scarer. One of the Scarer’s that he meets on the trip tells him he should go to Monsters U. There’s a time skip foreword and he goes to the school where you meet Randal and James Sullivan, Character from the original Monsters Inc. and reprised by the original voice actors. The characters had been slightly redesigned to fit their timelines. Mike was shown with braces as a kid and then a retainer during MU, Randal was coloured lighter, made slimmer and given glasses, Sullivan was also not as large as his adult version but otherwise not much was changed.
Pixar has always been great at building a world around their work and this is still true for Monsters University. MU is set up logically and touches the common themes of university life such as joining a fraternity, pranks, university events and competition. As the movie unfolds you meet the various teachers and get a sense of where the characters stand with each other. Mike Wazowki is portrayed as a hard working intelligent student who just seems to lack the natural talent, while Sullivan is his opposite coming from a line of well-known Scarer’s and has the natural talent and of course slacks of because of it. A very common theme that while overused is a classic way of makes two characters rivals without making either one of them the “Good” or “Bad”
The Story behind Monsters University
The plot kicks off during a test where they must demonstrate what they have learned about being a Scarer, which also has a lot of thought put into it. The child’s fears play a role on what kind of approach you use that will generate the best effect. Mike and Sullivan end up a fight and cause an incident that forces the Dean to get involved. Putting them both on the spot to demonstrate their ability to scare she is unimpressed and expels them from the scaring program, forcing them to choose other career paths. Pixar set up early in the movie a competition to prove who is the best Scarers. Mike decides to join, much to the dislike of the Dean, but Mike wagers if he wins then he must be the best Scarer and that the Dean was wrong for expelling him from the program. The Dean, amused and unable to publically deny him accepts the wager and will allow each member of his team into the scare program. In order to join the competition you need to belong to a fraternity, he joins one of the lesser frats Oozma Kappa but needs one more member to be eligible. This of course brings in Sullivan who was kicked out of Roar omega Roar after being expelled from the scare program.
The competition is a series of tests which they learn the each member of the group must finish in order to place as first, second or third. The last Fraternity to finish any challenge is removed from all future challenges. The challenges are surprisingly dangerous to the monsters but it’s cartoon dangerous so having limbs swell up is silly and you don’t get hurt being thrown from a library across campus. Each challenge is a test of personal fear, thinking, strategy which are all traits needed to be the best. The main characters, now joined by their frat brothers, learn friendship, working together and that being different is a useful tool and not a handicap.
Without spoiling too much the ending Mike and Sulley do not get back into their program and are actually expelled from the university. Which I felt was a very real take on events, instead of the fairy tale ending that gets them back into class and graduating. Now Monsters Inc does show they work on the Scare Floor so how do they go from Ex-University students to being famous in their job. They start where anyone else would from the bottom and work up.
I was also impressed with the advertising showing typical dorm pranks and that they set up a promotional website where you can get additional information about Classes, Faculty, Administration, Campus life and even an online store to purchase their merchandise so you can be proud member of MU, otherwise known as Monsters Inc. University.
Written by a guest reviewer, Ian Doig