Imagine a G-rated Revenge of the Nerds with a Greek Week obstacle tournament as inventive as the tasks in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire... and you've got Monsters University. We were among the lucky few to catch an early screening of the latest Pixar movie, and here are our spoiler-free reactions.
(And when we say spoiler-free, we mean there'll be some generalizations — but if you've seen the trailers, you'll be basically fine.)
While not as astonishingly mind blowing and amazing as its predecessor Monsters Inc., Monsters University is still an upstanding addition to the franchise. Plus it manages to capture the impossible: Create a G-rated college movie that doesn't lose that authentic "college debauchery" feel.
Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan (future best friends) both enroll at MU. But their first years together are nothing like the stuff we saw in Monsters Inc. In fact, they hate each other. And it's this hatred that gets them both kicked out of the elite scaring school at MU. The only way to get back in? Join up with the saddest frat on campus (Oozma Kappa) and find a way to win the Scare Games, so they can prove that they both are worthy of this elite institution.
There are so many new Monsters to get excited about. But the three biggest stand outs have to be Dean Hardscrabble (voiced by Helen Mirren), Art (Charlie Day) and the president of Roar Omega Roar (and overall jock jerk) Johnny Worthington — voiced by genre MVP Nathan Fillion.
Not since Henry J. Waternoose III has there been a monster that gave us so many chills, until we met the winged, dragon-faced, centipede-legged Dean Hardscrabble. The head of this school isn't mean, and isn't really unfair — but she's still scary. Truly, deeply chilling. So when Sulley and Mike butt heads with this head honcho, you really are terrified for them. Plus the most respected scarer in the business should actually be scary, right?
Art is such a brilliant representation of "that guy" in College. He's the D-Day character from Animal House, but Pixar-ed. For example, when the members of the Oozma Kappa are spotted by the cops up to some cute hijinks, Art is the guy that screams, "I'm not going back to jail," and runs away.
And finally, Johnny. Not since "the hammer is my penis" have we seen such dickery — and yet Fillion outdoes himself again. In the hall of fame for condescending, entitled Frat pricks, Monster Johnny definitely deserves a primo spot.
Smart Fan Service:
Thankfully Monsters University doesn't fall all over itself paying fan service. Instead, it focuses its "remember that" energy on the story of Randall Boggs (which is pretty clever and cute). The other nods to the previous film are just that, nods. They don't get in the way of the storytelling.
Sober But Fun:
Instead of beer pong, it's ping pong, or pong throwing or whatever. It didn't matter — I didn't miss the drinking or drunken debauchery one bit, because the actual Scare Games themselves were just as entertaining as anything Van Wilder could ever conjure up. The audience totally bought that these baby monsters were having the time of their lives.
They Found Their "Boo:"
How can you top the precious baby human, adorably named Boo, from the original film? You can't — but you can find a close second in the halls of the Oozma Kappa house. This band of misfits turns Mike and Sulley into reluctant parents once again.
Mike and Sulley are still Real Monsters:
Mike might be a giant, green eyeball and Sulley might be a blue monster covered in fur and polka dots, but they deal with real, human emotions. And not the cliched nonsense we see in movie after movie, but things young people struggle with when finding out who they really are, the first time they're out on their own.
Too Many Endings:
I really enjoyed this movie — but the ending might annoy some people. Plus the movie seemed to have multiple endings in general, as if it can't decide on just one. But that's a minor complaint, in an overall charming film.
The Verdict Enroll Today.