Published on July 1st, 2014 | by Clint Davis

Monsters University [2013]

Monsters University [2013] Clint Davis

Summary: It's definitely fun to spend some more time in arguably Pixar's most inventive world, but MU doesn't always feel necessary. The gags aren't repeats but the same magic is lacking.


Good Enough

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G  |  104 min.

Director: Dan Scanlon  |  Screenplay: Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, Dan Scanlon

Starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios  |  Distribution: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

In Monsters University, we follow a young Mike Wazowski as he learns to scare.

Ten years ago, Pixar took us onto the scare floor at Monsters Inc. and introduced us to two of animation’s most likable everymen.  In the studio’s latest film, we get a glimpse at how Mike Wazowski and James “Sulley” Sullivan became friends while attending a prestigious institute for higher, more terrifying learning.

Monsters University loses a bit of the magic present in its predecessor and actually loses some of the fun too.  Monsters Inc. continues to be a great film because it’s a story about great friends who we all wanted to hang out with–in this prequel, that familiar relationship doesn’t develop until over an hour in.  With the exception of a retainer, Mike is basically the same character, while Sulley is played as an unlikable jerk for most of this movie.  He’s shown as arrogant, entitled, and lazy for more the first half of Monsters University, making for a lengthy setup as we start to dislike a character we already loved.

MU’s Scare Games are one element ripped from Revenge of the Nerds.

Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi reprise their roles voicing Mike, Sulley, and Randall (who actually starts out as a nice guy).  New additions to the cast include John Krasinski, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, and most notably Helen Mirren as MU’s Dean Hardscrabble.  There are a lot of new characters added in Monsters University, mostly consisting of fellow students.

Trailers for Monsters University made it look a lot like Animal House with frat parties and pranks being pulled but in reality, the film is closer to another campus classic, Revenge of the Nerds.  Like that film, Monsters University‘s central storyline revolves around a series of competitions played out among the school’s Greek organizations.  These Scare Games pit MU’s elite fraternity Roar Omega Roar against Mike & Sulley’s underdog Oozma Kappa house, just as Nerds saw the Alpha Betas take on the Tri-Lambs at the Greek Games.  But rather than exacting their revenge using synthesizers and hidden cameras (“We’ve got bush!”), these monster nerds train like a gang of Rockys and leave it all on the field.

Helen Mirren’s Dean Hardscrabble is just one of many new characters.

Plenty of typical college movie subgenre staples are seen in Monsters University, including the crusty old dean threatening to expel Mike if his team doesn’t win the Scare Games, stealing the rival school’s mascot as a prank, and a score full of marching band drum corps jams.  This movie is even more of a boys club than Monsters Inc. was though, with almost no female characters present in the action–I guess after making Brave last year, Pixar wanted to dedicate one to the boys!

At it’s heart, this is a picture about following your dreams and having to earn your place in the world–presenting a positive message for any young viewers.

The bottom line is, these characters and this universe are still a lot of fun even if it feels like the writers were just resting on their laurels through most of Monsters University.  Pixar spoiled us for about the first ten years of their existence by constantly re-inventing the wheel with each movie they released so while entries like this will still rake in the dough and make us smile–they don’t quite live up to our lofty expectations for the studio.

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About the Author

Clint Davis is a Cincinnati, Ohio-based journalist who dropped out of film school to write news! Email him at

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