The prospect of getting to revisit the “Monsters” world sounds great on paper, but the formulaic “Animal House”/”Revenge of the Nerds” plot fails to add anything worthwhile.
Review by David Feltman
“If you’re not scary, what kind of monster are you?”
Pixar has been recently criticized for settling into its established franchises and lazily sequeling itself to the top of the box office. Not every sequel has been lazy. The “Toy Story” films were all excellent, but the lackluster “Cars 2,” The “Finding Nemo” sequel on the way and the new and ultimately unnecessary “Monsters Inc.” prequel have all done little for the Pixar reputation of innovation. It’s no surprise the studio recently announced that they would be refocusing their efforts on new IPs going forward.
There’s really nothing wrong with “Monsters University” which, outside of maybe “The Incredibles,” offers one of the most vibrant and intriguing worlds in the Pixar universe. The prospect of getting to revisit that world sounds great on paper, but the formulaic “Animal House”/”Revenge of the Nerds” plot fails to add anything worthwhile. Mike plays the slavishly hardworking Salieri to Sulley’s affable and languidly gifted Mozart. Sulley’s aloofness toward the monster nerds never feels sincere and his transition from antagonist to ally is painfully inevitable.
The “Monsters” films are at their strongest when the monster universe is in conflict with that of the humans. Unfortunately this is the dynamic that “Monsters University” scales back the most. The prequel sorely misses something to equivocate the loveable Boo’s trail of terror. But the film attains its most masterful moments when the monsters finally cross the threshold into the human world. The climax hits all the notes of classic haunted house/slasher flicks, supplying some unexpected suspense. It’s a satisfying finale that, when combined with the clever touches (the cutesy monster mom listening to Mastodon or the two-headed, fire-breathing pigeon), makes the movie enjoyable enough but far from a Disney classic.