The Good: Great voice acting, enjoyable for kids and adults, beautiful animation, well fleshed out and entertaining world
The Bad: The plot is a little predictable/cliché, not as emotionally engaging as Monsters Inc.
Other than the amazing Toy Story 3, Monsters Inc. has been my favorite Pixar movie for a long time. I loved its creative ideas, original plot, unique take on something common, and the connection between the audience and its characters. Needless to say, I went in to Monsters University with some high expectations, and despite my best efforts, it was difficult not to bring all of my feelings for the first movie into this one. I wanted to fall in love again, but for me, Monsters University wasn’t quite as great as the original mostly due to some overused clichés and plot structures. That said, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and was glad to see Pixar getting back to really being Pixar.
If you’ve ever seen Revenge of the Nerds and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, then the plot in Monsters University isn’t anything new. Basically, Mike and Sully learn to get along while participating in a contest to gain status at their college. Unsurprisingly, the contest has various challenges that ultimately force the pair to understand and grow into their individual strengths. Don’t worry that I just spoiled it though, Pixar was wise enough to put in plenty of twists and turns along the way and the end actually surprised me. It’s a solid plot (if a little predictable), but it’s the lessons, humor, and classic Pixar feel that most people will be seeing this movie for.
The plot choices that were made teach lessons on camaraderie, teamwork, persistence, and humility and all of them make this an awesome family film, but the final lesson stood out and is something kids probably won’t learn from other movies: sometimes even amazing effort doesn’t pay off, but if you keep on working, eventually you can still achieve your dreams. It’s this rarer lesson that added a lot to the film for me, and it’s these unusual but important lessons that played a big part in what made Pixar famous in the first place.
Though the plot doesn’t always keep you guessing, Pixar did what they were once known for and fleshed the world out in a way that made it both believable and fresh. Little details in the background will have adults laughing, and the small quirks in all of the characters brought them to life. The world works like a world full of monsters and powered by screams would work, and Pixar’s attention to detail makes the university both hilarious and endearing.
On the voice acting/animation side of things, Billy Crystal did an amazing job reprising his role as Mike, and (once they gave him something more to do than act to a cliché) John Goodman did a great job as well. Crystal’s energy in particular is amazing, and Mike makes for a great hero throughout the movie because of it. As are all of Pixar’s works, everything is beautifully animated and there are a few scenes that might even stand as some of Pixar’s best. The facial expressions of the characters perfectly complement the acting, and everything adds to a nice, cohesive whole.
Ironically, the adults in the theater found Monsters University far funnier than the kids did. In a theater full of children, I only heard them all bust out laughing once at a particularly immature moment. Other than that, it was the adults who were catching the humorous lines of side characters and the adults who noticed the funny little details Pixar put everywhere. Don’t get me wrong, the kids all loved it, I just think it was more of a drama to them then a comedy.
All in all, it was a highly enjoyable film for all ages, and while the plot is a little cliché and it doesn’t pull on the heartstrings the way the original did, I don’t think anyone will come away from Monsters University unhappy.