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Film Review: Monsters University


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Most Pixar movies are left alone, but Monsters Inc was always one that begged for more attention. This is why 12 years after the original we have pleasant prequel, Monsters University.

Monsters University

The famous duo, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) are at the Monsters University campus as very different types of freshman.

Mike, the overly keen fresher who wants to become a superstar Scarer and Sully the too cool for school student whose father is a legendary Scarer, hit instant rivalry in the elite Scaring programming with the intimidating head, Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) who sees them both as pitiful in the land of scaring children.

As someone who was a child when the first film came out in 2003 and at university during this new release, the journey is one that I can relate to; the VIP only parties, the rise of the underdog and the cool-factor. The content scrubs out of the binge drinking and sexed up lifestyle for obvious reasons yet still manages to capture a student body with a different set of priorities.

As a student who studies constantly, Mike finds his barriers not in his knowledge but in his appearance as a monster ‘who just is not scary’. Set alongside his class-rival, Sully, Mike realises that his goals may not be within reach after seeing the famous Sullivan family scare knock his own of the water. However, when their rivalry comes to a headway, causing more damage than banter, Dean Hardscrabble kicks them both out of the Scare Programme. 

With the final chance back into the scare league being the annual Scare Games of Monsters University, Mike upholds the underdog fraternity, Oozma Kappa to compete with an ultimatum of either winning or expulsion from the university completely. 

The film is reminiscent of Freaks and Geeks and other early 90s/80s university comedies that see groups of students seperated by appearance and friendship rankings. Fraternities, which I’ve only ever heard of in American college dramas, catalogue the social hierarchy of the monsters with the best scarers topping the league. 

Throughout the film, relationships are key to the plot as in many Pixar films. At first, the relationship between Mike and Sulley has an element of predictability to it: the overly keen, determined 'geek' versus the super popular, natural 'jock'. This construction is soon knocked down when the question is asked, what happens when your rival becomes your teammate? It is the additional members of Oozma Kappa (mature-student, Don Carlton, sweet naive, Squishy, free spirit and unpredicatable, Art and the two-headed squabblers, Terri and Terry Perry) that distract you away from the predictable relationship and divert you to think about how to use flaws to rise to top. 

On a technological level, the film has excelled itself in animation techniques. There are 500 characters in Monster's University, which averages at around 25 characters per shot, doubling the number in previous Pixar films. Your eyes are constantly thrilled watching the different characters that surround Mike and Sully everyday, including the soon-to-be villan, Randall, adding to the diversity of a real university experience. 

Whilst the content may not be have crude undertones that appear after you've watched the movie several times, as in Monster's Inc, it certainly is a heartwarming story exploring the meaning of the doors in life that just aren't meant to be and how taking another door can be more rewarding.  

Monsters University is released in the UK on 12th July.

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