MONSTERS UNIVERSITY. Voiced by Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscem and Helen Mirren. Directed by Dan Scanlon. 110 minutes. Rated PG.
A pleasing film that might have you with a smile on your face right throughout the film – and not rushing out during the final credits, waiting to see the final good joke.
Those who delighted a decade ago, venturing into the world of Monsters Inc, will not find this film providing the instant joy of meeting Mike Wazowski and Sully for the first time. Rather, it is meeting up again with old friends. As voiced by Billy Crystal at his humorous best (though with some pathos as his goal in life is to study to be a scarer at Monsters University and he can’t quite make it) and with John Goodman as his perfect foil. And for good measure, there is Helen Mirren voicing the imperious dean of the department, Dean Hardscrabble. It really is a top voice cast.
It should be said that Monsters University is not a sequel to Monsters Inc. It is a prequel. It takes us back to the little Mike (very little because Mike, round with his one eye, is little even as a grown-up). He hero-worships a genial monster who encourages him to study, and gives him an MU cap which becomes Mike’s treasure.
He grows up (still little) and goes off to university.
At this stage, the film is a happy variation on the youngster-goes-off-to-college movie, arriving, full of awe, seeing the students, invitations to join clubs, registering, finding his room, getting a roommate who is skilled in disappearing (and has to get rid of his glasses which don’t disappear). This parallel with the teen and young adult college movie is not a bad thing. We enjoy observing and smiling at the similarities.
There are classes, tuition, tests, a nice lecturer and the winged dean with her sudden and solemn appearances. Can Mike really scare anyone? Then Sullivan, Sully, arrives, the son of a very famous scarer, coasting on the family reputation. He is accepted into the top fraternity and looks down on Mike.
When Mike does not qualify, he remembers the ad for the Scare Games. The film-makers have done some remembering themselves: The Hunger Games. The bulk of the latter part of the films is the competition of the games. In order to qualify, Mike needs Sully on his team. Then he has to have a fraternity and the only one that will accept him is the lowliest, a collection of entertaining characters (and the mother of the softest and nicest one).
It’s exciting, of course, and then there is a blow which leads to the last part of the film, Mike and Sully in a haunted house, not to haunt it, but to escape from the local ghost busters.
Young audiences will enjoy this 2013’s Pixar Animation Studios contribution, top value as usual. Those who enjoyed the monsters in the past (but might think they are a bit old for this) can find a good excuse to go to see it: take their younger brothers and sisters. And the adults will enjoy it, no questions asked.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out June 20, 2013,