Monsters University (2013)

monsters U


A prequel to the 2001 film Monsters, Inc., Monsters University is one of the weaker Pixar entries in quite some time. It is architecturally awkward and creatively dull. While its ancestor had components that explored fear and the concept of how a child could be overexposed to terror, this movie has lesser intentions.

Monsters University exists to puts its characters through the paces. It aims to reveal how its two heroes met and stitches together a flaccid lesson about cooperation that even the most unsophisticated audience members will see coming, but it barely plunges the depths behind the beasts.

The picture starts with young monster Mike (Noah Johnston) going through elementary school and dreaming of being a “scarer.” 11 years later, the older Mike (Billy Crystal) heads off to Monsters University to make his dreams come true. Unfortunately, he’s not as naturally frightening as the other students and struggles with the program.

Eventually, Mike meets Sulley (John Goodman). He’s a scarier monster, but he’s having trouble with some of the finer points. After getting kicked out of their program by Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), Mike and Sulley have no choice but to team up to hopefully regain a spot through the Scare Games.

The movie takes a long time to develop and doesn’t get clicking along until Mike and Sulley meet up with the Oozma Kappa fraternity. This presents the opportunity for novelty and comedy, especially as some of the frat brothers have some neat talents and backstories.

But by the time Monsters University gets to the OK fraternity, it’s spent most of its currency. It goes through too many unnecessary caverns along the way and scrambles for frivolous ways to fill time. Beyond the suggestion that Mike wasn’t popular, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to portray him in elementary school.

There is also a pile of redundant chase sequences that only seems to exist to showcase the light and camera dynamics of the animation team. While the flick is visually striking from time to time, it lacks any serious aesthetic punch apart from a few fleeting glimpses of wonder. What Monsters University winds up being, then, is embarrassingly average.

Directed by Dan Scanlon, the 2013 entry for Pixar staggers around too much to recommend. It flops through a number of plot threads and never seems ready to give up the ghost, even appending yet another moment with Hardscrabble as both characters leave school on the bus. These bits confirm that the plot is lean, but it schleps forward nevertheless.

This is Pixar’s first prequel and one has to wonder why things played out this way. The world of Monsters, Inc. had rich potential behind those doors and the monsters’ unearthing of other powers to elicit emotions was really something. Monsters University forgets that element, trading complexity for complication and burying the lead in a mountain of bland devices.

As such, it’s a disappointment. While the voice acting is up to par and the animation is on the same level as the studio’s recent yield, there’s no soul in this motion picture. It lacks heart and cohesion. It walks a hesitant, tortuous path through college life, painting a picture that feels insignificant and, worst of all, needless.


8 thoughts on “Monsters University (2013)

  1. Not to mention the immense influence of the Harry Potter films on this Pixar film, to a point it almost feels like a copy

  2. Good review Jordan. The original will always be a classic in my mind no matter what, however, this one had some moments where I felt like they got the feel from that movie correct. But not too many times and instead, most of it just felt phony, even for a kids movie.

  3. Mostly agreed. I was a bit less negative, but I too think it average, at best, and of minimal appeal. I will say I like that it dares to show kids that sometimes … Sometimes you don’t accomplish your dreams. Sometimes it’s just not in the cards.

    Beyond that, there’s nothing special here.

  4. I must say, while I agree with you on the point that this film is not as good as Monsters Inc. and is not as good as there best films (i.e.: Toy Story, Wall-E, Up,etc) I do think you are a little harsh on the film.

    As a prequel, I agree it might not have been made, but I’m not entirely disappointed that they made it. It’s nostalgic with enough new jokes to give it a life of its own. I would keep going on, but if you want to see my view of Monsters University, then you can look at my review here:

    But in all seriousness and non-advertising. Good review, just not my thought on it.

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