Monsters University

Monsters University

2013, G, 110 min. Directed by Dan Scanlon. Voices by Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Helen Mirren, Nathan Fillion, Alfred Molina, Charlie Day, Dave Foley, Sean Hayes, Peter Sohn, Joel Murray, Aubrey Plaza, Julia Sweeney, John Krasinski.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., June 21, 2013

Remember the nifty idea behind Monsters, Inc., wherein the city of Monstropolis was powered by the shrieks of human children, mined by professional monster “scarers”? It put a face on the thing that goes bump in the night – a blue, no-neck giant named Sulley (Goodman) with a head like a fat thumb – and made a hero out of him, too. A dozen years later, the movie hasn’t aged one lick, but this prequel – which jogs back to the college days of future Monsters, Inc. employees Sulley and Mike Wazowski (Crystal) – arrives already stale. There’s no invention here, no bold new strokes, only doodling on the dynamo concept of the first film. As for the actual brush strokes: My Monsters, Inc. Blu-ray renders images more vibrant and tactile than the dim, cruddy 3-D here.

Monsters University follows first-year Scaring School students Sulley and Mike, rivals and a study in contrasts: Sulley is all instinct and letterman charm, while Mike (he’s the diminutive eyeball on stick legs) is book-smart but far from a natural. The script (by Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, and director Dan Scanlon) has a couple of laugh-out-loud moments (Muppet-voiced Charlie Day, as a nerdy wannabe scarer, delivers the biggest howler, even if it fits better on his It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia acid-comedy than in G-rated entertainment), and composer Randy Newman keeps the energy level high with his drumline-heavy score. But mostly this is shrugging stuff – clever but never inspired, dutiful but not possessing any of that ineffable magic of Pixar past.

Pity the kid tagged early as gifted and talented; anything less than exceptional is labeled a fiasco. Would I chide Monsters University for mere competence if Pixar didn’t have that first 15-year stretch of transportive animations on its transcript, before losing its shine with Cars 2 and the better-but-still-underwhelming Brave? Probably not – I mean, it’s not like Monsters University is a bad movie. It’s just not a terribly interesting one.

READ MORE
More Films
Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton
Intimate portrait of the surfing legend only skims the surface.

Danielle White, Oct. 20, 2017

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House
Account of the informant who brought down Nixon's administration

Marc Savlov, Oct. 20, 2017

More by Kimberley Jones
Lucky
Cranky loner (and beloved character actor) faces mortality

Oct. 13, 2017

Future Imperfect: Our Favorite Dystopian Films
Our Favorite Dystopian Films
VOTE: Deadly roller derby, sad clones, and a Road Warrior duke it out

Sept. 28, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Monsters University, Dan Scanlon

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)