Watching Monsters University is like going to a university reunion many decades after you graduated. You arrive filled with warm fuzzy memories of your old friends and how funny and entertaining they were. However, after ten minutes of playing guess the sandwich feeling and drinking warm cheap wine you realise that age has turned your former friends into dull, dull people. Monsters University provides you with a similar feeling. Arriving twelve years after Monsters Inc, Monsters University tells the story of how Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) become best friends. The problem is this removes the thing that made the first movie so great – the comic interaction between Mike and Sulley. Sadly the film never recovers from this initial mistake.
A big part of this is that the script reads like a check list of every major stereotype from an American college movie and once the scare games start you can check in sports movies as well. In fact you could improve your movie going experience by taking in with you a homemade plot point bingo card. Just don’t shout bingo when you fill your card!
However, there are some laughs – and almost all occur when Art, Sherri Squibbles and Dean Hardscrabble are on-screen. Art, played by Charlie Day, is a combination between Animal from the Muppets and a woolly purple scarf with legs that has many of the best lines in the film. A close second is Sherri Squibbles, the embarrassing mum of the story with a love of thrash metal.
Dean Hardscrabble isn’t funny, she’s scary and adds genuine menace that the film really needs. Her design is beautiful – a cross between a dragon and a centipede – which is backed up by Helen Mirren’s brilliant voice full of contempt and threat.
The best part of the movie is saved to last when Mike and Sulley finally become friends while trapped in the human world. During this sequence we finally get to learn more about their characters and understand why they are so close. Also this sequence, suitably, is quite scary and I’m sure many young children won’t want to take in a wooden cabin for quite a while.
Overall Monsters University is fun but not up to the standard of the original Monsters movie. Its major failing is a storyline that handicaps the film before it starts and it never recovers. If you want to spend an evening with Mike, Sulley and the gang get Monsters Inc on DVD. You’ll have much more fun.