Billy Crystal and John Goodman return as younger forms of Mike and Sulley so we can see how they grew to become the greatest scarers in Monstropolis through their university years. Starting out, Monsters University concentrated almost solely on Mike as a child and concentrating his life on becoming a scarer. This is where the first issue of the film arose. Anybody familiar with Monsters Inc. would not believe that Mike Wazowski was a studious bookworm – he’d always be the big kid on campus rather than living in the shadow of others. However, this is the role he’s been cast in this prequel.
On getting to the eponymous Monsters University, Mike finds himself overshadowed and sharing a room with Randall – in a wonderful cameo by Steve Buscemi. This is where Sulley comes in, riding the coat tails of his family name and acting like nothing can come close to his scaring ability – this is nothing like the sensitive Sulley we saw in Inc.
Following their meeting, a macguffin of the ‘scare games’ – a monster’s Olympics – to allow our heroes to become the underdogs, courtesy of the unfancied frat Oozma Kappa. Mike then assumes the role of coach to attempt to bring the underdogs to become the top scarers on campus.
Considering the majesty of not only Monsters Inc. but the Pixar house as a whole, Monsters University is a crushing disappointment. Gone are the real world references that made the Inc. so appealing in favour of more average and forgettable jokes for the appeal of children. Yes, there are laughs to be had but given the expectations set by the previous output of the company, there is something severely lacking throughout this film and has done through the Pixar oeuvre since Toy Story 3.
If you’re looking for a family friendly animated feature, Monsters University is middling at best. There’s nothing particularly original and very few laugh out loud moments to be had throughout its running time. One can hope that Pixar ditch the sequels/prequels in favour of original stories and find their feet once again, if not, we’re subjected to more average and run-of-the-mill animations from now on.