Monsters Inc. is one of my favorite Pixar films. For the sheer imaginative scope alone, it’s a children’s film to be celebrated. This prequel, however, is less a new and exciting development, more a quirky comedy designed to appeal to the kids who once loved Monsters Inc and are now packing up for university themselves.
The premise is an identikit frat comedy. The only original elements are the funny looking characters and, let’s face it, even that’s not so unusual for campus-set sitcoms.
We begin with the moment one-eyed runt Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) discovers his lifelong passion for the scare floor. He devotes his young life to study, with the aim of landing a spot on the scaring course at that renowned seat of learning – Monsters University.
Once there, however, he finds his lack of natural talent for scaring more of a setback than he anticipated. And when a cocky monster named James P. Sullivan aka Sully (John Goodmna) pops up, oozing charm, charisma and the born talent of scaring, the two begin a fierce rivalry.
Soon their antics boil over and they are faced with only one way to save their dreams of working at Monsters Inc: join the least cool fraternity on campus and battle the best in the annual ‘Scare Games’.
It has all the hallmarks of a standard campus comedy in the mold of Animal House (minus the booze and womanizing of course). There are the nerds in a constant battle for acceptance against the odds, the cool kids keeping them down, a strict dean who’s always on their backs, and plenty of silly pratfalls.
Those among you who have grown attached to the characters over the years will no doubt welcome the chance to spend some downtime with them once more, as Pixar tie in as many familiar faces as they can. And the standard sentiment that breaking the mold is a good thing remains the primary theme.
Oddly the only place this consistent message is broken is the film’s own structure. The bog-standard setup really does mire the film in mediocrity. The new characters are pleasant and amusing, but the story lacks the innovative insight of its predecessor.
We aren’t transported to new and exciting worlds or presented with a place with completely different ideas, it’s just the Monsters Inc. world but young and silly.
It’s strange to think that a follow-up aimed at a slightly older audience can seem so much less matured and interesting than one primarily aimed at children, but such is Pixar’s Disney-dictated route at the moment. So let’s wrap up before I get bitter…
It’s quite sweet, mildly amusing but totally lacking in surprising. A moderately entertaining 90 minutes that probably won’t disappoint most cinemagoers but sadly fails to hit the heady heights of its delightful first outing. The Toy Story franchise this ain’t.