A very pleasant prequel to a very pleasing original.
Monsters University has slightly more trouble scaring up the laughs than its 2001 predecessor Monsters Inc, but still gets by very nicely on its infectiously easy-going nature, good sense of slightly naughty fun and especially the vocal talents of Billy Crystal and John Goodman, recreating their amusing double act as their original monster characters Mike and Sulley.
Guess what? They’re going to a posh school to study scaring kids. The school’s campus looks very like that of the University of California at Berkeley, which conveniently happens to be very close to Pixar’s headquarters. There at Monsters University they get a bit of a scare themselves when Abigail Hardscrabble flies down on them as the winged college dean. And very threatening she is too, particularly as her strict tones are delivered by none other than our very own Helen Mirren, convincing you she’s having a ball as she picks up an easy pay cheque. She’s good value though – that’s why she gets hired time after time.
Mike and Sulley aren’t at all instant best friends. In fact they don’t like each other. The unscary Mike is desperate to learn how to be scary and the one-note big and scary Sulley wants to be with the other big scary guys. They’re forced to join a team, though, and work together. Trouble is, Sulley’s so desperate to win, he’s prepared to cheat.
Randy Newman’s old-fashioned score is an absolute delight, polished, crafted and richly tuneful. Sometimes I could just shut my eyes and listen to the soundtrack and forget Pixar’s images. The animation is good, very good even, but not quite so imaginative this time round, like the story.
The movie wants to scare kids in the audience (just a little) with some bizarre images and idea, and it kinda does. Today’s kids will just love that, of course, and are not ever going to be really frightened by anything here.
This is Pixar’s first ever prequel. I’d personally rather have something new; much as I loved Monsters Inc. Sequels are sometimes a sign of lack of imagination, but Pixar have a great record with this, coming up with a trio of great Toy Story films. Monsters Inc really didn’t need a sequel or prequel, but if it had to have one, this is entirely sweet. Quite a little delight really.