Monsters University (3D) (U)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarNo StarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner10/07/2013

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 110 mins

Entertaining, beautifully animated Pixar prequel with superb voice performances, a constant stream of amusing gags and an oddly realistic central message, though the supporting characters are underdeveloped and it lacks the magic touch that made the original film so special.

What's it all about?
Directed by Dan Scanlon, Monsters University is a prequel to Pixar's 2001 hit Monsters Inc. As a young, green, one-eyed blob, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) visits Monsters Inc on a school trip and is told that if he wants to follow his dream of becoming a professional scarer, he should study hard and attend Monsters University. When he arrives on campus he meets classmate James ‘Sulley’ Sullivan (John Goodman), who figures he doesn't need to study and can coast through university on his famous scarer father's legacy.

However, when the pair fall foul of scary Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), they are both threatened with expulsion unless they can work together and win the annual team-based Scare Games. Unfortunately, the only team left with open slots is the Oozma Kappa fraternity, a house comprised entirely of nerdy no-hopers: chubby, middle-aged avuncular Don (Joel Murray), double-headed, argumentative Terry/Terri (Sean Hayes/Dave Foley), timid blob-with-five-eyes Squishy (Peter Sohn) and furry arch-shaped monster Art (Charlie Day).

The Good
Crystal and Goodman are both excellent as Mike and Sulley and their sparky interaction is just as strong here as it was twelve years ago, with both characters also getting scenes that are slightly more emotional this time round. However, next to the two familiar central characters, the supporting cast feel a little underdeveloped (particularly Mirren's Dean Hardscrabble), which feels like something of a wasted opportunity.

The film is beautifully animated throughout, with (literally) eye-poppingly bright colours and a wealth of background detail and character design work that should ensure repeated viewings on DVD. Similarly, the script provides a constant stream of amusing gags (though it never quite hits the heights of belly laughs) and there's a curiously downbeat but nonetheless refreshingly realistic central message about accepting your limitations (this works because we know from the outset that Mike never becomes a scarer, so we brace ourselves for the moment that he lets go of his dream).

The Bad
Aside from the underdeveloped supporting cast and a slightly confused message about cheating, the film is also let down by a disappointing climax that lacks both the dramatic and emotional weight of the previous film. Similarly, the lack of big laughs is a problem and the film in general is somehow missing what might be termed ‘the Pixar magic’, perhaps because, as this is a prequel, we know that everything works out okay in the end, so nothing is really at stake and there are no delightful surprises.

Worth seeing?
Some niggling issues aside, Monsters University is still an enjoyable and beautifully animated prequel that should prove a hit with both adults and children, though it never hits the dizzy heights of its predecessor. Screens with Pixar short The Blue Umbrella.

Film Trailer

Monsters University (3D) (U)
Be the first to review Monsters University (3D)...
01 The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (tbc)

Lee Pace, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, ...

02 The Theory of Everything (tbc)

Felicity Jones, Eddie Redmayne, Emily Watson

03 Pride (15)

Bill Nighy, Andrew Scott, Dominic West, Imelda Sta...

04 What We Did on Our Holidays (12A)

David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Rosamund Pike, Anne...

05 The Guest (15)

Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Ethan Embry

Content updated: 28/08/2014 02:17

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

Night Moves Film Review

Engaging and provocative, this is a fiercely introspective thriller from writer-director Kelly Reichardt, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films

Hot Tickets

Film 4 Summer ScreenFilm 4 Summer Screen

Taking over the big screen at Somerset House again for August 2014, the Film 4 Summer Screen series brings a variety of classics and brand new films to audiences in the capital.