There once was a time when the name “Pixar” meant beautiful, near perfect films that kids and adults alike could enjoy. That was before the Disney/Pixar merger – before the company began producing films that ranged from mediocre (Brave) to downright awful (Cars 2). Since the company can no longer be relied on to churn out masterpiece after masterpiece, I went into Monsters University with tempered expectations.
However, I am happy to report that I came out of the theater pleasantly surprised. Monsters University is sweet, lovely to look at, and hilarious to boot (well, one or two of the jokes may have fallen flat, but most were dead-on). At about the halfway mark, I realized how much I’d been enjoying the movie—I’d hardly stopped smiling.
The plot of Monsters University is pretty straightforward. Mike and Sully meet at college and, naturally, hijinks ensue. The two start off as rivals and accidentally put themselves at risk of expulsion. In order to win back the dean’s favor, they have to pull together and reconcile their differences to succeed and ultimately, become best buds.
My only real complaint is that the movie’s simplicity leads to few surprises. That isn’t to say that the movie isn’t littered with delightful and even poignant moments, because it certainly has its share of those. It’s just that when compared to some of Pixar’s earlier fare (MU’s predecessor, Monsters, Inc., for example), it seems a little like, well, a scream can inspector in a roomful of scarers.
SPOILERS (here, have some rambly thoughts about the end of the movie)
One thing that kinda surprised me was the route the movie decided to take at the end. With Mike and Sulley kicked out of school and hunting for jobs, the message that comes across is “Having a degree isn’t everything. Make the best of what you have.” I liked that. I liked the idea of Mike and Sulley working their way up through Monsters, Inc., putting their all into even the most menial jobs. I think that’s a good message in itself—work hard and keep your chin up, even when life doesn’t go how you would’ve liked it to. That message alone redeemed the movie in my eyes. The message went from “teamwork is good, cheating is wrong” to something more complex and realistic. So, good on you, Pixar. A little more of that nuance would’ve been welcome throughout the entire flick!