I haven’t liked a Pixar film since Toy Story 3. Sure, there’s only been two films since, but Cars 2 and Brave were both dreadful exercises in cash grabs and lack of creativity. My favorite Pixar films are the ones of an earlier era, the days of the first Toy Story films, Finding Nemo, and especially Monsters Inc. Monsters Inc., as a matter of fact, is a very essential movie to my childhood. I was a huge fan as a little 5-year-old kid. I had the toys, the video games, the little homemade ID card that identified me as a employee of Monsters Inc, the whole nine yards. You would figure that I would be excited for Monsters University. But, in fact, I wasn’t. I thought the film looked generic, lacking the sophistication and heart of the first film, blending in with Pixar’s other cash-grab of a sequel, Cars 2. Have I ever been so wrong? Monsters University follows the early days of the friendship of Mike and Sully, two monsters training to be expert scarers at Monsters University.
The voices of John Goodman and Billy Crystal have always fit the parts of Mike and Sully perfectly, and this film is no exception. They bring perfect comedic timing and lovability to the roles, creating iconic characters with heart, hilarity, and depth. Rounding out the cast is an extremely memorable, hilarious, and quirky set of new monsters with an exceptional cast of acting pedigree to back that up. Steve Buscemi reprises his role as Randall, one of the few other Monsters Inc. characters that get a little more than a cameo in the film. Also lending their voices to the film is Helen Mirren, Charlie Day, Alfred Molina, Nathan Fillion, and Aubrey Plaza, all big names with perfect voices for the roles they’re given, but the film really belongs to Mike and Sully.
The story is where, from the trailers, I fully expected this film to fall apart. It seemed to be generic, lacking the depth and scope that made the first film so profound and heartfelt. It does lack that incredible story, but its nowhere near being dull or uninteresting. The film takes a slightly generic story, and “Pixarifies” it brilliantly, adding heart, character development, and perhaps some of the best comedy Pixar has delivered to date. The film is laugh-out-loud funny so consistently, that I’d rank it as the funniest film of the year so far, without a doubt.
The film is not just funny though, as it has the heart and emotion to back that college satire up. With a great score from Randy Newman that brings even more heart and light-hearted kindness to the film, the film transforms a generic college storyline to something incredibly heartfelt. Despite what I’ve said about the storyline, I must give credit to the last 20 minutes of the film, which take an unexpected, brilliant detour from the formula in order to deliver an extremely satisfying, unforeseen finale.
Monsters University is one of the biggest surprises of the year so far for me, a funny and heartfelt prequel that doesn’t live up to its predecessor, but is certainly worthy of being related to it. Its not in the league of Pixar’s elite best, but its Pixar’s best in a while.
FINAL GRADE: 9/10 stars
FINAL SAY: Hilarious, heartfelt, and incredibly charming, Monsters University makes up for its lack of original storytelling with well-developed characters, clever writing, and a big heart.