Monsters University (Cert U)
1 Disc (Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) Running Time: 103 minutes approx.
The dynamic duo of Mike Wazowski and Jim “Sully” Sullivan (voiced by Billy Crystal and John Goodman respectively) make a great team as Scarers at Monsters Inc., drawing the screams out of young children in the human world to power their home world of Monstropolis. But they weren’t always on such good terms.
Aside from the mega successful Toy Story franchise and, rather bafflingly, Cars, Pixar have been rather reluctant to make sequels of their big hit films. Strictly speaking Monsters University is a prequel and not a sequel but it still marks a rare return to an established concept for the CGI giants – albeit one a long time in the making. The big Disney/Pixar dispute following Toy Story 2 hampered a proposed sequel to 2001’s Monsters Inc. for a 2005 release which was eventually resolved when Disney – who holds the rights to Monsters Inc. – bought Pixar in 2006. However a number of other projects took precedent before the proposed sequel was eventually announced in 2010 having now become a prequel.
Going back to his days as a junior, little Mike was always left out of class activities and felt without a direction until a fateful and eventful school trip to the Monsters Inc. headquarters inspired him to dedicate himself to become a scarer. Of course this requires a lot of hard work and graduation from the titular Monsters University, overseen by the steely hand of the all time champion scarer Dean Abigail Hardscrabble (voiced by our very own Helen Mirren).
It seems that all US learning establishments are governed by the same rules of fraternities and self-regulated caste systems and Monsters University is no different, with the chirpy Mike finding himself on the outside of the popular fringes around campus. His roommate is a nervy chameleon type named Randall Boggs who can make himself invisible, and is the first of many nods to the previous film for people to indulge in a knowing smirk at. Mike and Boggs are mocked by the cool monsters, especially an over confident Sully whose family lineage earns him a pass among both students and tutors alike. But while Sully lives it up Mike studies his backside off, leading to a showdown that has dire consequences for their education.
As a result of their antics Mike and Sully are keen to prove themselves in the annual Scare Games contest to regain their place in the Scare programme. Forced to join the nerdy misfit fraternity Oozma Kappa, the pair begin to form a friendship while at the same time raising the profile of both their group and themselves. But what goes up must come down.
What we have is essentially a CGI version of Revenge Of The Nerds and almost every other US high school/college comedy but one that is unlikely to be dated by its period aesthetics and music soundtrack of the time. And the characters are far more likeable and endearing too. Mike and Sully are pretty much how we saw them in the first film, but with Mike being a lot more sensitive and Sully is much cocky and inconsiderate. Naturally the duo eventually bring out the best in each other but it takes a while to get there, overcoming some unique and amusing odds along the way. Avoiding mawkish sentimentality, we are treated to some fun escapades as part of the Scare Games tournament which is carried over onto their domestic arrangements, being forced to share a box room in the official Oozma Kappa house – which is in fact the home of OK member Scott “Squishy” Squibbles, or rather his mother’s home.
In the first film there were many cute references to great horror monsters, writers, film makers and other notable tributes to the genre; this time round the subtle references are to the original film and what is to later be the life of Mike and Sully as we know it. This makes for a notably less witty film than the first but certainly not a less funny one and the conventional storyline means the laughs are little more predictable as a result. Another aspect carried over here is the range and inventiveness of the monster designs, the uni setting allowing the character designers to let their imaginations run riot. Certain familiar tropes are transparently represented while others are pure comedy fodder and are all the better for it.
One thing you can always count on from Pixar and that is stunning visuals and as the first film was a huge leap forward for CGI it is only fitting that its successor should be the one to up the ante another step further. While the monsters and human figures will always have that “cartoon” veneer to them the backgrounds and set pieces are flawless to the point of being photorealistic. In fact, there were numerous occasions where I could have sworn I was looking at a photograph, it was that good. The movements are incredibly fluid and very adaptable for depicting those relevant to the various monsters on hand, be they bi-pedal, quadrupeds, multi-legged, insects, slime based, have tentacles or even capable of flight. Released in 3D in cinemas this probably looked a treat but it still enthrals on Blu-ray too.
Arguably more generic than the film that chronologically succeeds it, Monsters University is by no means a failure, delivering all round solid entertainment to appeal to audiences members young and old alike. One of the few entries into the Pixar oeuvre that can pull off a retrospective tale, fans of the original shouldn’t be disappointed with this outing.
English Language 7.1, 2.0, 2.0 Audio Descriptive
French, Nederlands and Vlaams Language
English Subtitles For Hearing Impaired, French, Netherlands Subtitles
Short Film: The Blue Umbrella
Rating – ****
Man In Black