It’s been almost twelve years since we were introduced to monsters Mike and Sulley, the heroes of ‘Monsters, Inc.’. There was always rumblings of a sequel after the first film hit, but nothing seemed to come of it…Until now, and not in the way that some have expected. Instead of continuing from where ‘Monsters, Inc.’ left off, Pixar has decided to go back in time to when our heroes meet for the first time, back in their college days, where they were rivals. Of course, viewers already know how the two characters will end up, but seeing their friendship come together, and the events that transpire to get them there, is half the fun. The film is part ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ and ‘Animal House’, while also being part ‘Dead Poets Society’, but Pixar style. Featuring an excellent cast, headlined by returning stars John Goodman and Billy Crystal, ‘Monsters University‘ isn’t quite the movie some were expecting, and that’s a good thing.
Ever since Mike Wazowski was little, he wanted nothing more to be a scarer at Monsters, Incorporated. It was his dream, so when he finally gets his chance to go to college and study to become a scarer, he jumps at the chance. But what Mike wasn’t expecting was to meet the lazy and cocky monster, James P. Sullivan, also known as Sulley. But when their futures become muddled and unclear, the two must work together to make sure they reach their goals, to secure their futures, while unknowingly becoming best friends.
The thing that makes ‘Monsters University’ so good, is the humor and heart that the film has, much like the first. Telling the story of the characters in college though really let Pixar explore an area they had never explored before. The setting has really given Pixar a chance to run wild with crazy college antics, creating things like over the top sororities, insane parties, and crazy rush games. One of the highlights of the film is the different sorority games that all the monsters are involved in. They’re just so insane and hilarious, they show just how inventive the team at Pixar is. The library game, which you briefly see in the trailer, may be the best of the bunch, because it’s truly the most fun and inventive. The added bonus of a giant monster that looks similar to Cthulhu makes is just icing on the cake. On top of all the witty college comedy though, Pixar has managed to make a film that is brimming with heart. Mike and Sulley’s journey to become Scarers at Monsters, Inc. really drives the film. Everyone who ever went to college knows the challenges it creates, especially when it comes to it deciding your future, so that story really hits home. The fact that Mike is willing to go to the extent he is, just to make sure he becomes a scarer, is incredible, and it makes his character’s journey even more amazing. He comes so far, and the way that all of his story wraps up, is not in the normal way you may be expecting, which ultimately makes the film all the better for it. It’s actually refreshing seeing a studio take the chance they did with the story, because many wouldn’t go the route Pixar does here. It just shows how far they’re willing to go to really tug on heart strings and give characters a satisfying journey.
But really, the film’s biggest asset is the cast and characters that they have inhabiting this universe. John Goodman and Billy Crystal are so good in their roles of Sulley and Mike, respectively, that you wouldn’t have known over a decade had passed since they last got to play the characters. While, at their core, the characters are the ones we know and love, Goodman gets the chance to play Sulley just a bit different than before, with a cocky side that the character didn’t really have in the first film. He’s the popular guy in school who gets by on his family name, and Goodman is so good playing the character that way. Crystal has never been better as Mike, and he gets to play the character with so much wide eye wonder and optimism, it makes his character feel so different. He really wants to fight for his dreams and future, and he won’t let anything stand in his way, and Crystal really brings that to life.
The cast is rounded out by some stellar talent, including Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Nathan Fillion, Charlie Day, Sean Hayes, and many more, including Steve Buscemi, who returns as Randall Boggs. Pixar always manages to hire top talent, and that’s no exception here. Each of the supporting actors really brings these characters to life, creating some truly memorable supporting players. Fillion, Mirren, and Day all really standout amongst the best of the bunch, mostly because their characters have so much to do throughout the film. Mirren especially is creepy and wonderful as Dean Hardscrabble. She’s such an interesting character, and Mirren plays the character brilliantly. She’s a natural at voice acting, so it would be great to see her do more voice work later.
‘Monsters University’ proves that regardless of Pixar returning to their franchises of yesteryear, they still have what it takes to make a great movie. Full of heart, humor, and great characters, the movie soars to great heights, becoming an excellent companion piece to the first film. The cast is excellent, and with some great nods and cameos from characters from the first film, ‘Monsters University’ reminds us all just why we loved this world to begin with. This is a perfect family film, and it comes absolutely highly recommended. Definitely go see this film.