Monsters University is the prequel to Monsters, Inc., which Pixar released in 2001. Monsters University explores how Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) met as freshmen at college in Monstropolis. Consider this the animated, PG version of "Animal House" and "Revenge of the Nerds," complete with fraternities like Roar Omega Roar (ROR) and its president, big
man monster on campus, Johnny Worthington (Nathan Fillion), the ragtag fraternity Ooama Kappa with the slogan, "We're OK" and the very harsh dean of students, Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren).
Mike and Sully have very different takes on college life, with Mike burying his nose in a book and relying on hard work to make up for what he lacks in talent, er, scarriness. At the other end of the spectrum, Sully isn't quite as dedicated a student and happy to coast through school on his good looks and family name. Both are there to become top level scarers, following the premise of the first film that scary monsters produce screams from scaring children and those screams are converted into the energy the society needs to function.
The very first part of the film features Mike Wazowski as a tween, complete with braces, and some of the social awkwardness of middle school. And as for college, I love the Monsters University website, which looks for all the world like a real university website but better and funnier. As for the academic aspect of the movie (SPOILER ALERT - THIS DOESN'T RUIN THE MOVIE BUT IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW ANYTHING AT ALL, STOP READING), I was surprised that there's a portion of the plot about cheating. I don't know that I was fully satisfied with the message, although the character does acknowledge that what he did was wrong. (And I can say he without giving too much away because the characters are almost all male.) Another character is upset by the cheating and makes another poor decision as a result of his anger, and the consequences are all rather lumped in together. In the end, it's questionable whether they had any real impact.
The movie also addresses that fact that sometimes a student wants something very badly, more than anyone else, and works the hardest but still cannot achieve his/her goal because of a lack of the innate talents necessary to do so. This is a realization that might resonate with tweens who are recognizing that they may not have the physical ability to be the next Tom Brady or Alex Morgan. In that way, the movie is real and honest but a bit of a downer.
I went with two 10-year-old girls and our thoughts are below. I worried that it would be "too young" but there was a decent amount of tweens in the theater. The run time is approximately 1 hour, 40 minutes, but don't forget the endless trail of previews before hand and the charming short film The Blue Umbrella. Here are our thoughts:
Parent: I liked it. It was a sweet story of friendship and I really liked message about not only appreciating differences but using them to your advantage. I loved that I didn't have to cringe at any point or worry about explaining something inappropriate. That said, it did not suck me in like many Pixar films have. The visuals were great, as usual for Pixar, and the rainbow of colors especially welcome on a rainy day. While it was pleasant, there weren't a lot of laugh out loud moments and while parts were sweet, it didn't truly move me. Perhaps the Pixar bar is just too high in my mind?
Tween #1: I wanted to see Monsters University because I really liked Monsters, Inc., but the first one was better. I expected much better. There were no giant laughs. Although there were smaller laughs, I was still hoping for it to be funnier than it was. The first part was the cutest, and I liked that Mike had braces and then a retainer. I would say it was 3.5 stars.
Tween #2: It was just okay. I'd give it 3 stars, but I did like it better than the first one. But maybe I don't remember the first one that well. I liked the part where they were running and got stung by those pink things and then they swelled up. That was funny.
Have you seen it? What did you think?
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