I fear my expectations were running a little too high for “Monsters University.” I loved the first film, “Monsters, Inc.” and, in fairness, it would have taken something pretty spectacular to exceed that 2001 monster hit.
Never fear, however, M.U. is still well worth the price of admission as we get a peek into the very early years of Mike — again with the voice of Billy Crystal — and Sulley, sounding a lot like John Goodman. For Mike, it was an early field trip to Monsters Inc. that fueled his desire to attend Monsters University. For Sulley, a natural-born scarer, it’s a family tradition.
We find that these two weren’t always the best of friends. I know, I know, this is where you have to ignore a few things we thought we knew about their friendship from the first film. It seems that the relationship finally jells when, after being thrown out of M.U.’s Scare Program, the boys strike a deal with Dean Hardscrabble — with the voice of Helen Mirren — to let them back in to the program if their fraternity can win the “Scare Games.”
Let’s just say that everything doesn’t turn out perfectly.
“Monsters University,” while not eclipsing the first film, is really quite a delight. It’s fun to get the earlier scoop on these great characters. One of my favorites is Randy Boggs, the chameleon-like, disappearing, reptilian monster voiced by Steve Buscemi. His weaselly persona and sly demeanor are irresistible. Dean Hardscrabble is wonderful — prim and proper with a withering authority made all the more formidable with Mirren’s vocal gifts. And, of course, you have to love Mike and Sulley. Billy Crystal reprises his role perfectly, even when our little cycloptic hero is just a wee little monster spilling from a school bus.
Pixar, legendary for its creativity and innovation, doesn’t disappoint. Just watching the intricate detail and subtleties on the screen is a joy. It’s easy to start taking the incredible effects and animation for granted. And, not being a huge fan of 3-D, I didn’t mind it here; it actually was a positive addition to the experience.
While I’m not giving this the full four stars, I do like this film a lot. So, 3½ stars for “Monsters University,” and it carries a G rating.