Monsters University film review

Pixar’s Monsters University is light on jokes but big on fun, in cinemas 12 July 2013

The real lesson learned at Monsters University is that we don’t always get what we want from life.

It sounds pretty downbeat, but when young Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) sets his heart on becoming a Scarer and doesn’t succeed, it’s actually one of the most mature messages ever made in a children’s picture.

The prequel to 2001’s Monsters, Inc transports us to when Mike and Sulley (John Goodman) were students on the prestigious Scare Program at Monsters University.

This could be the brightest, most visually electric setting of all the Pixar films so far, as the campus is crawling with bubblegum beasts. Pixar has once again raised the bar for digital rendering, particularly when it comes to fur.

In the first film, Sulley’s natural almost L’Oreal-like movement stunned us all but now that technology has caught up, nearly every other critter sports a healthy mane. It adds to the tangible realism and the 3D specs only enhance the level of detail that’s been poured into creating this all-American campus.

Fans of the first film will recognise a few old faces, including Randall (Steve Buscemi). We get to learn a little about how he became the scheming Salamander we love to hate, but the biggest surprise is Sulley.

Far from the humble big kitty, the teenage version is a natural-born Scarer who doesn’t believe in studying. He doesn’t get far with that philosophy, either (another lesson learned), and it’s only when he teams up with Mike’s gang of misfits, the Oozma Kappa’s, that he discovers working as a team is far more effective.

This loveable bunch are welcome additions to the Monsters fold but the standout has got to be Squishy. Looking like a distant cousin of the Adipose, he lives with his embarrassing mom who provides most of the gags.

Jokes are slightly thin on the ground this time around, but the fast-pace of the annual Scare Games and the will-they-won’t-they get back into university plot will keep kids and adults entertained. Things may not work out the way Mike planned but true to the theme of Monsters, Inc, when one door closes another one opens.