Open your books and turn to chapter one; it’s time for Monsters University, Pixar’s prequel to their 2001 hit. Rewinding the clock, we follow Mike and Sully as they take their first tentative steps into art of scaring. Mike’s rotund spherical shape and booksmarts have made him the target of ridicule as no one finds him the least bit scary, whilst Sully is coasting off the reputation of his successful father and failing to take college seriously. Neither is particularly fond of the other. When they’re both kicked off their course by Dean Abigail Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), they must work together to get re-enrolled. Along the way they will join the least successful fraternity and enter the annual Scare Games against the most popular fraternity on campus, Roar Omega Roar.
Yes, this is pretty much every college movie you’ve seen, from Animal House to Revenge of the Nerds, boiled down to a palatable child-friendly nugget. Whilst the initial idea of a children’s film set in a college may seem at odds with the cuddly nature of Pixar, it’s a credit to their talent how quickly these doubts are washed away as Mike literally takes his first step onto university soil. We only wish our days at uni were like this.
Cameos from Monsters Inc rub shoulders with some lovely little set pieces. A showcase of Sully and Mike’s scaring abilities is a particular stand out, as the young monsters learn to harness their abilities against a foe they’ve never studied for. There’s also a lot to be said for a film whose take-home message appears to be at odds with other Pixar movies, such as Finding Nemo and Toy Story. Whereas those seemed to instil a sense of limitless possibilities into the minds of their impressionable viewers, Monsters University goes for a more grown up message which appears to be restrictive and balances the hash realties of life with a can do spirit that would make Buzz and Woody proud.
Whilst not as eye-opening or wonderful as Monsters Inc, there is enough here to leave a mile wide smile on your face.