Review: ‘Monsters University’


Does the prequel to the 2001 classic make a passing grade? 

In 2001, Pixar was tasked with delivering their first follow-up to the hugely successful sequel to Toy Story, giving us a movie that would have to cement Pixar as the studio that would be responsible for the next generation of Disney family classics.

We received Monsters Inc., which was a big hit and is widely regarded as one of Pixar’s best.

In a dimension removed from our own, “monsters” live in a pseudo-human society that is powered, literally, by the screams of children. To supply their world with continuous energy, monsters are in the business of harnessing these screams by walking into the human world via “doors” and scaring children.

The original movie gave us a scaring duo, Mike and Sully, who accidentally found themselves harboring a human child named Boo, which was troublesome since humans are considered “toxic” in the monster world. Mike and Sully subsequently uncover a massive conspiracy behind “Monsters Inc.,” alluding to the dangers of energy corporatism and the ills of oil as an energy source.

Don’t believe me? Think about it. The monsters eventually turn to a “better” resource by the end of the original movie that is superior in quality and gathering, an overt reference to green energy. Yeah, your childhood.

Going into Monsters University, a prequel to the original that details how Mike and Sully originally became friends, I couldn’t help but feel confused as to how we would be sold on rooting for “scaring” again, which is what we found to be “bad” in the first movie.

Also, where would the heart of this movie be without Boo?

Well, the movie goes to great lengths to address these problems, and with the original movie tying up all loose ends, they had no choice to go the prequel route, so I give Pixar a pass on that.

Monsters University is very much a movie about Mike Wazowski, in the way that Sully was really the central figure of Monsters Inc. Only this time, Mike serves as the heart and driving character of the movie, which actually works out.

Yes, the movie uncovers how he and Sully became unlikely friends, but it’s really more about how Mike, a less-than-frightening monster, goes to extreme lengths to “out-monster” his rivals through sheer determination and will. It’s an underdog story that uses its subsidiary characters to full advantage.

The movie begins with Mike Wazowski visiting “Monsters Inc.” as a child and deciding that he wants to be a “scarer” someday. Skipping forward, we learn that he has spent years obsessed with learning every possible technique for scaring there is, giving him the chance to enroll in Monsters University, a school that teaches monsters how to scare.

Mike quickly meets Sully, a jock coasting on his family name and physical appearance. Unlike Mike, Sully considers scaring to be nothing but emotion and raw talent, setting him up as the “Kirk” to Mike’s “Spock.”

1018_663957250287802_1284235275_nThe two eventually become hesitant allies in a series of events called the “Scare Games,” an all-or-nothing competition to prove they are the best “scarers” at the school. I won’t spoil it, but the stakes are actually pretty high leading up to their participation in these games, making this underdog story fun and exciting.

The surprise hits of this movie come in the form of Mike and Sully’s fraternity, Oozma Kappa (“OK”), a group of nerdy monsters that were the only fraternity that would take in our main characters.

I found myself enjoying their movie almost as much as Mike and Sully’s, which is actually a good thing. The monsters of OK were constantly stealing scenes and breaking up the drama between the main characters. Leave it to Pixar to throw us a curveball.

Also, if you haven’t noticed, Monsters University sets itself up as a family oriented Revenge of the Nerds mixed with that great Pixar heart we’ve all come to love.

Overall, the movie is hilarious and the way they wrapped things up was actually perfect in my view. Does it measure up to the original? Of course not, I doubt it ever could. But it knows that it’s a prequel and delivers as an almost-perfect prequel that will undoubtedly please kids and adults alike.

So yes, it is definitely worth watching.

P.S. the animated short following up the to the movie, “The Blue Umbrella”, was actually very disappointing and the first Pixar short that really fell flat for me. Don’t stress out if you miss it.


28 thoughts on “Review: ‘Monsters University’

  1. Good review. 🙂 Just saw this and about to write my own review. Think we mostly agree on this one. Obviously not as good as the first (don’t think that would be possible!) but still definitely worth watching.

  2. I really enjoyed MU as much as MI, it was a great surprise, in terms of measuring movies, they’re both enjoyable to watch, masterfully produced and great stories and thus in my view, are equal measure.

    At first I didn’t really enjoy the photorealism of Blue Umbrella, but still goes to prove that Pixar tell the best love stories. It grew on me by the end and gave me several warm and fuzzy feels.

  3. I disagree, I thought the prequel was better than the original which surprised me. Maybe that was because I was a kid when I first saw MI so I’m too used to it to have a strong opinion on it. Whatever, were all entitled to our own opinion. But fuck you, the Blue Umbrella was incredible and one of my favorite shorts that they did. If you missed it, then look it up on youtube or something because feels.

  4. What? The Blue Umbrella was awesome! But I agree with all the other stuff.

      • It was bland. No easter eggs either. Disapointing.

        • Actually, 3 stuck out to me:
          1. Mike’s teddy bear
          2. Mike’s catchphrase: “If you’re going to insult me, at least think of something clever!”
          3. A poster in their dorm that says “Winds of Change”

          You can find all of these in the long trailer, to my knowledge.

  5. I personally thought the blue umbrella was really good, actually one of my favorites. But that my opinion…

  6. How was the blue umbrella any different than paper airplanes? That’s all I could think while watching.
    Regardless, I thought MU was awesome. I think this is due to the fact that I was using Despicable Me 2 as comparison and not the original.

    • The only difference I can articulate is that I LOVED “Paperman.” It’s just a matter of taste I guess.

  7. MI and MU are both deffinitely awesome… just in different ways. MI is about heart and taking care of your loved ones while MU is about proving yourself and not giving up. if you come to think about it they both show the best of their protagonist and that’s why they are so different yet so similar. I’d dare to say that if you preffer MI over MU you probably preffer Sulley over Mike and viceversa. they are both unique and they (like Mike and Sulley) complement each other.

    About the blue Umbrella…. I though it was visually awesome. It all looked so real it was hard for me to believe it was animation rather that live-action, in that sense it was just beautiful. The story may not be as complex as in other pixar shorts but it was still moving and the photography make up for it.

  8. Hey Jon in the spirit of your pixar theory (small spoiler) Sully is referred to at the summer camp in the dark as a bear. which falls right in with brave. also the bus logo on the charter is the cars logo.

  9. I loved both mu and mi equally and was insanely in love with blue umbrella

  10. The only thing that didn’t add up for me in Monsters University was that in Monsters Inc., Mike commented to Sully that he had been jealous of his good looks since the fourth grade. We are supposed to believe that Mike and Sully first met and grew into friends at college. How could Sully be jealous of Mike’s good looks since the fourth grade if they didn’t know each other then?

    • That’s an inconsistency Pixar addressed. During production it was decided that Mike and Sully should meet at University despite that line in Monsters Inc. They know it’s inconsistent but decided that Monsters University worked better with them meeting for the first time on campus.

    • Wow. I’m impressed you caught that. Although I think it was mentioned in the MI commentary.

  11. Whilst I enjoyed “MU”, I did fine there were a few things that were left unclear, or dealt with incorrectly. One of the biggest points was the meeting point of Mike and Sulley. In “MI”, the characters state that they met in the fourth grade, which contradicts the outcomes of this new film. I did enjoy the inclusion of Roz and the Abominable Snowman in “MU”, but considering both Mike and Sulley had worked with these characters, it seems strange that they had no idea of their pasts, or true identities in Monsters Inc.

  12. This movie actually changed what pixar originally imagined for Mike and Sully. In the commercial for the movie, even though it was about a minute long, Sully tells Mike that in the fifth grade, when he was passing notes to a girl, the rest of the class was studying geography. Man, I loved that commercial. Let’s watch it again:

  13. I think that both the blue umbrella and MU were great. Change of subject… you never brought up Frozen… Repunzel and Flinn Ryder (Eugene) are at Elsa’s corination.

    • Dude, do you know what this article is about? This is an article about seeing if MU is worth watching, NOT ABOUT FROZEN+TANGLED CORONATION JUNK!!! THOSE AREN’T EVEN PIXAR!!!! #$!@?! 😠😠

  14. Wow, you’re an idiot. MU is a SEQUEL to MI, not a PREQUEL. Learn to speak English before you post an article on a website.

    • Well, obviously it’s a sequel, but it’s set as a prequel.
      Also, YOU should watch what you post before you go insulting people. For your information, you just insulted THE Jon Negroni, and not everyone appreciates that.
      You are so lucky I’m controlling myself right now.

  15. Hi! I wanted to talk about a fanfic project that could work as a a tie-in story between Monster University and Monster Inc. Its protagonists are Terry and Terri Perry, my favorite characters from MU.
    Here’s how the story goes:
    Terry and Terri are in the Monster Inc. cafeteria. There, they are found by Sully and Mike. They sit together and chat a little, mentioning how they hadn’t been able to have lunch together since they’ve been working overtime to cover the same quantity of energy. Sully tells them that Waternoose suggested they film a commercial to attract new scarers. The bell rings and they have to get back to work. After doing the Power Walk, their coach hands them the folder of Caleb, one of their “regulars”, a kid that spent much time of his nights since he was 5 being visited by various monsters, without anyone really scaring him. When they are about to destroy his door, they give him one last chance and give it to Terry and Terri, that manage, somehow, to scare him out of his skull. After through research, the monsters find out Caleb is not one of those kids who simply can’t be scared (the ones that are seemingly causing the still unassumed energy crisis), but a child who has a pretty specific fear: polycephalous creature. Since then, the Perry brothers had been in charge of scaring him. But this time, when they enter his room, they find he’s not there and when they want to return, they open the door to reveal… a closet. In the monster world, there has been a blackout. Their door is turned off.
    Mr. Waternoose finds out about this and tries to solve the problem without calling the CDA’s attention. For that, he puts the I.T guy, Randall Boggs, in charge of returning the power as fast as possible. Meanwhile, in Caleb’s room, Terry and Terri try to avoid touching anything, fearing they’ll get “intoxicated”. But something calls their attention: in an open notebook, there’s a drawn picture of them. At first, they feel flattered (I believe that finding out one of your regular kids draws you must be some king of proof to a monster that they are indeed scary), but as they check out the notebook, they realize it is Caleb’s Diary, a journal his therapist made him keep to watch his “condition”: imaginating monsters and picturing his worst fears on them. Terry and Terri keep reading and soon find out how much damage they’re making on him: he can’t sleep well, he’s bullied at school, his parents don’t believe him, and other stuff. They’re finally rescued within an hour of being there. The CDA is called and Waternoose lies saying that there was a mishap with the power. They give them a week of license.
    Once at home, the twins are trying to sleep, but none of them can. They tell each other how shaken they are about the Caleb incident. They decide to quit and return to college so they can major on what they wanted first: Dancing and English. But when they confrontate Waternoose about it, he tells them they can’t quit because of the now assumed energy crisis. The twins then sabotage their own work and get themselves fired.
    Inmediatly after he has just fired the Perry Brothers, Waternoose calls Randall and asks him why, having his invisibility ability, he is not working as a scarer. Boggs tells him he got expelled from the Scaring Program, but majored in Engineerings. Waternoose then makes a deal with him: he’ll be promoted to scarer, to the condition he creates a machine thet both makes more energy out of the same screams and impersonalizes scaring so “softy” monsters like Terry and Terri won’t be affected by their actions.

    So… what do you think?

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