Summer is officially here and that means there is a new Pixar movie for fans to flock too. This year, the animation geniuses try their hand at a prequel, explaining how our favourite monsters, Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan, met. Starring Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Charlie Day, Aubrey Plaza, Bobby Moynihan and Nathan Fillion, this new movie explores what life as a monster student is really like, in some very funny ways. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.
I am a huge Disney animation fan, including all the Pixar films. And this one does not disappoint. While not the best movie Pixar has made (Toy Story 3 remains my favourite movie of all time), but it is still a very good movie. At this point in Pixar’s run, comparing the movies is hard. Some of them are amazing, others are just good but they are still the best animation movies every year.
Monsters University is possibly Pixar’s funniest movie to date. Pixar has taken a college life and monsterized it to great success. Every detail is covered, from over-excited student leaders (the very funny Aubrey Plaza and Bobby Moynihan) to Frisbee on the quad. It’s very clear director Dan Scanlon and his team drew on some great memories when making this movie.
This attention to detail really sets this movie apart from the 2001 Monsters Inc. There are a lot more characters, all with a lot more moving parts, which is a luxury of the advanced animation tech Pixar has developed over the years. This is especially apparent in an early scene when Mike first arrives on campus. There are hundreds of monsters walking, running and flying around, all looking very different. Like the first scene at the day care in Toy Story 3, there is so much to see in many of the scenes and it is very beautiful.
The main plot follows our favourite green monster, Mike Wazowski, as he tries to fulfill his life long dream of becoming a scarer. He studies really hard and nabs a spot at the prestigious Monsters University, where he meets all kinds of colourful creatures. But his mission to be the best faces many hurdles, including competition with the son of a scaring legend, the laid back Sully. This leads to a rivalry that gets both in trouble and forces them to team up in order to stay at the school.
This setup leads to tons of good clean fun. New characters are everywhere and all good for some awesome one-liners and physical humour. The stand-out new character (and one who will sell a ton of toys) is Art, voiced by Charlie Day. Everything he says is completely out of left field, while also providing many physical laughs with his two legs and no arms.
It’s hard too say Art is a standout though because all of their new friends are still very funny. Terry and Terri as a two-headed monster have some great banter. Older student Don also provides some laughs as he tries to hold onto his youth. And Squishy, who still lives with his mom and always catch’s people off guard. This colourful group of friends all have their own funny moments that really elevate the movie.
That’s not to say Mike and Sully aren’t funny. They get into the frosh parties with pig ridding and beer pong, but in a very special monster way. The film opens with Mike as a little kid going to tour Monsters Inc. that has some awesome lines and looks extremely cute as a little green monster. And Sully’s first introduction is one of the best scenes in the whole film. Needless to say, there are plenty of laughs for everyone.
John Goodman and Billy Crystal are stars again as Sully and Mike. Their banter is perfect every time and the new, competitive dynamic between the two keeps things fresh and interesting. I am certain Goodman had an awesome time playing the super chill Sully, who blows off class and forgets his pencil. It’s awesome that they were able to bring both actors back 12 years later. Anyone else in the roles wouldn’t be the same.
But like all Pixar movies, there are still some strong thematic moments in this one. This is not as powerful as the end of Toy Story 3, but the way this friendship comes together rivals that of Woody and Buzz. Scanlon was smart to not make them be complete jerks to each other, because that would have made it hard to come together in less than two hours. Instead, they are simply different and competitive guys who are thrown together unexpectedly to try to save their school career. So by the time it comes for them to sit and talk about life, the path to that moment is very clear and it fits the story (of both Monsters movies) perfectly.
And the ending will catch you off guard. The film follows a multi-stage competition but doesn’t end there and explores some very powerful ideas. I won’t say anymore but there is more to the ending than I expected.
Finally, I want to mention the film’s three antagonists (if you can call them that). Steve Buscemi returns as Randall and gets his own minor origin story which explains why he hates Mike and Sully in the original. Helen Mirren also has some fun as Dean Hardscrabble, who is considered one of the scariest monsters of all time. And Nathan Fillion is a natural pick for the jock fraternity leader who bullies Mike but likes Sully. While they aren’t villains like Mr. Waternoose (who gets an awesome cameo) in the first one, they just stir the pot enough to carry the plot forward.
While not as groundbreaking as Up or Toy Story 3, Monster’s University is still a great animated film that continues Pixar’s trend of high quality animation. And like all Pixar movies, there is something for everyone, not just the little kids. So just go see it and have a good laugh. You won’t be disappointed.