In Pixar's first (and so far only) prequel, they expand the Monster World (Monstropolis) we got a glimpse of in 'Monsters, Inc.' by showing us the educational process it takes to become a "Scarer". Just for a quick recap, it's a Scarer's job to go through doorways that lead to children's closets so they can collect the "Scream Energy" needed for what's basically their electricity. This is all learned from a young Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) while on a field trip to Monsters, Inc. He then takes a great interest in becoming a Scarer, and makes the choice to work very hard to get there.
After a quick but thorough intro, we are taken eleven years later to the main stage of the film, Monsters University, where Mike is now a teenager. Here, he meets James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) - a cocky student who relies on his natural talent and family name to get through things easily. Sulley manages to join the most exclusive fraternity on campus as well, headed by the brutish Johnny (Nathan Fillion). Soon, however, it's all taken away when Dean Hardscrabble's (Helen Mirren) record-holding scream cannister is ruined during a fight between Mike and Sulley. The Dean fails them both, stating Mike isn't nearly scary enough, and Sully is too lazy and too dependent on his family name. This further prompts Roar Omega Roar (Sulley's new frat brothers) to kick him out.
Wanting to prove himself, however, Mike enters the University "Scare Games" with underdog fraternity Oozma Kappa, which introduces new, friendly Monsters; the sensitive Squishy (Peter Sohn); mature student, Don (Joel Murray); Two-headed Terri and Terry (Sean Hayes and David Foley, respectively); and the fuzzy, almost Sesame Street-esque Art (Charlie Day). Being told they are one short, as the two-headed guy doesn't count, Sulley decides to step up and join, giving them a much better fighting chance. If they win, Sulley and Mike will be reinstated into the Scare Program, but if they lose, they have to leave school. Considering 'Monsters, Inc.' came before this, we all get that they eventually made it. But one thing this film does well is tell you how they made it in the end which, to the film's credit, was quite creative.
This is one of Pixar's titles that doesn't necessarily hit on a deeper level, so there's not much to say for it as far as that goes. However, regardless of that, it's still a solid film for what it is. I enjoy seeing an expansion of the Monster World, furthering the overall lore, and it's interesting to have a Pixar prequel instead of a sequel in which they totally could have capitalized on Boo's potential return. It could have been a real money-maker. Instead, the film wanted to tell us the story of Mike and Sulley's history together. Honestly, I think they do a very good job of it here. Randall (Steve Buscemi) shows up as well, and we get to see why his eyes are constantly squinty - that kind of thing isn't for everyone, but it does it subtly enough that the movie doesn't make it a big deal - it's not like how we see Indiana Jones get his lucky hat.
The one thing that may be missing for some here is the overall heart that 'Monsters, Inc.' had to it. This movie was done on a much more fun level. I like to say it's 'Animal House' as Pixar might see it. I wouldn't say it's aimed more at kids or adults so much as family, and it's actually an interesting follow-up to 'Monsters, Inc.' in that way. 'Monsters, Inc.' is the warm-hearted family movie whereas this is the family comedy. It's silly enough for the kids, but adults will appreciate the whole college fraternity side of it - especially when it comes to the games themselves. There's a few solid laugh-out-loud moments here, and to Pixar's credit, I had a lot of fun with it. It's a good movie to throw on if you need cheering up, but really don't feel like getting deep. Unlike 'Monsters, Inc.', this isn't really gonna make the eyes water.
As far as those Oscars go, this didn't go on to receive any nominations, making it the second Pixar film on that list. But in all honesty, it never really was Oscar material. It's more or less just a frat movie for kids, and to see it win, much less get nominated, would have been a bit of a surprise. I do enjoy this movie, but it is still a part of the era when Pixar wasn't at its strongest. This would be the third film on that list, and while these films are all enjoyable in their own right, that Pixar name just wasn't glowing like it used to. The overall heart Pixar once showed was starting to feel like it might not come back. However, that would all soon be fixed with the release of another one of my Pixar favourites a couple of years later.
Writers and Directors