Monsters University is the prequel to Monsters Inc., a movie I sort of didn’t get. Apart from the endearing animation, I found the story somehow convoluted and generic at the same time. I would say the same of Monsters University, which finds Mike (voiced again by Billy Crystal) pursuing his lifelong ambition to be a scarer. We meet him as a nerdy youth who works his way into college, then struggles to succeed against the odds.
Poor Mike is simply not scary and has no natural ability in his chosen field. He’s strictly book smart, and though he’s determined and well-studied, it’s entirely likely that he will never earn his scarer’s degree. Young Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) has the opposite problem: he’s all instinct and good genes (he comes from a long line of notoriously fabulous scarers), but lacks the discipline necessary to make the grade. After they’re dropped from the scaring program, the two reluctantly join forces to participate in the scare games, a series of challenges that are guaranteed to separate the best from the rest. Sadly, their team is only made up of “the rest”, and these lovable losers have to bring their A game in order to beat out the cool kids.
The movie is enjoyable enough from an adult perspective and involves a lot of average jokes surrounding college life and the Greek system. While I suppose it’s easy enough for a child to figure out what’s going on, college humor seems a little off the mark for the intended audience. (How many five year olds do you know who understand what a fraternity is?) What they will understand is that Mike and Sulley overcame their differences before they became the best of friends, and that there is more than one path to success. Their triumph over failure serves as a great example for kids and adults alike, but is easily forgotten after the credits roll. Though Monster’s University is charming and entertaining, it’s not as memorable as it could be.