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Billy Crystal
John Goodman
Helen Mirren
Nathan Fillion.
Dan Scanlon.
Dan Scanlon
Robert L. Baird
Daniel Gerson.
Running Time
110 minutes

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Monsters University
A literal Animal House

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Before they worked at Monsters, Inc., Mike (Crystal) and Sulley (Goodman) studied the art of scaring at the same college. And before they were the very best of friends, they were the bitterest of enemies.

Monsters University
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Pixar has walked an uneven road with sequels. The Toy Story movies each stood on the hinged shoulders of the last to become something bigger, greater and with ever-increasing depth, with the result of causing grown men to weep over the possibility that some plastic might melt. Cars 2, on the other hand, had no sense of needing to have anything to convey. It is the only time the studio has felt even remotely cynical in its planning, bending its own rule that story comes first. Monsters University, it is a relief to say, is much more of the Toy Story template.

It is, if you want to be picky, Pixar’s first prequel, rather than its fourth sequel. That’s a tricky proposition for this series, since the end of the first movie revealed Monstropolis, the home of the things under the bed, to be built on a lie. While its workers were striving to terrify every shade of bejesus out of children, they should have been telling them knock-knock jokes — laughs carrying greater power than screams. So this is technically a film about kids striving in order to waste the next decade of their life doing everything wrong. Which might be accurate and sort of timely, if not wholly inspiring.

Director Dan Scanlon, with co-screenwriters Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird, is wise to that, so this isn’t really about how James P. Sullivan and Mike Wazowski came to work at Monsters, Inc., nor even exactly about how they became friends. It of course takes those ideas in, but the story’s thrust is much more about how they came to be the people, or rather monsters, they are, which is an altogether smarter and more difficult story to tell. And like The Incredibles, which told us that not everyone is special and there’s nothing wrong with showing that you are, Monsters University has a realistic, unfuzzy message: the thing you want to do isn’t necessarily the thing you’re meant to do. Which will be crushing to X Factor contestants and anyone who owns a copy of The Secret.

We begin with a pint-sized Mike, a little booger with legs, who is friendless in school but admirably brimming with self-confidence.A visit to the Monsters, Inc. scare floor sets his mind on the one thing he wants to do with his life: become the greatest scarer in history. Fast-forward to his first day in college, where he’s enrolled on the scare programme, his eye constantly in a text book, while Sulley, a fellow student from a long line of successful scarers, coasts along on natural talent. Thanks to a bickering mishap, both find themselves off the course and desperate to get back in. To say much more about how this develops would give away a lot of the smart turns taken by the story, which rarely goes down the path most obvious, but it very elegantly weaves in other characters from
the first film, including Randall (Steve Buscemi), whose villainy is succinctly explained in the space of approximately two minutes on screen. Its plotting is some of the best Pixar has ever achieved.

This is also the studio’s pass at the college comedy, without many of the staples of that genre, like booze, sex and gratuitous nudity (although you could argue the leads are nude throughout). But there are other touchstones, like frat houses — an opportunity for punning with the Greek alphabet that the movie has embraced with both paws — campus douchebags (led by Nathan Fillion) and a scary dean (Helen Mirren), who, to show that these truly are monsters rather than cuddly toys, has several moments that may well cause upset for very small children or, more likely, their parents.

Monsters University is perhaps not as consistently gag-filled as Monsters, Inc., but that’s not to say it’s not as funny — just based more on observation than punchlines. And the new characters, particularly a fraternity of achingly ineffectual keenness, are all welcome. In all its enthusiasm for the new, Scanlon never loses focus on who this story is about. Even if Monsters, Inc. had never existed, this would still stand up as a film about two teenagers from very different backgrounds with their eye(s) on the same goal. It doesn’t trade off its predecessor but enriches it, which is exactly what a sequel should do.

Dazzlingly clever and hugely funny, it succeeds both as a broadening of the Monsters universe and as a film in its own right. Monsters University had a tough task, and it’s passed with honours.

Reviewed by Olly Richards

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Empire Star Rating

RE: Monsters University

It is funny. But the longed-for return to Pixar greatness seems as far away as ever. ... More

Posted by chang at 12:19, 31 December 2013 | Report This Post


Its good but nowhere nearly as good as the first one. Still charming and funny though. I won't be buying the Blu-ray. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guysalisbury at 00:56, 03 December 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Monsters University

excellent movie. great characters, great storyline, getting in on the "origin" bandwagon that seems to be so popular. ... More

Posted by moviebuff73 at 22:53, 12 August 2013 | Report This Post

A GREAT Prequel to Monster's Inc!!!

Pixar once again showcase complete mastery in continuing a franchise in great style!! This prequel concerns the beginning of Mike (Crystal) and Sulley (Goodman) friendship at College,..learning the art of how to be the best scarers around. It's doesn't start smoothly however as they are bitter rivals at first,...learning the ropes from tutors like,.well the very scary but brilliant Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscabble. It all moves at a good pace, good gags and great and funny set pieces abou... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 17:14, 20 July 2013 | Report This Post

A GREAT Prequel to Monster's Inc!!!

Pixar once again showcase complete mastery in continuing a franchise in great style!! This prequel concerns the beginning of Mike (Crystal) and Sulley (Goodman) friendship at College,..learning the art of how to be the best scarers around. It's doesn't start smoothly however as they are bitter rivals at first,...learning the ropes from tutors like,.well the very scary but brilliant Helen Mirren as Dean Hardscabble. It all moves at a good pace, good gags and great and funny set pieces abou... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 17:10, 20 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: B+

Enjoyable and well-crafted as their films still are, Pixar definitely seem to be taking the easy route of late, with sequels, prequels and spinoffs dominating their schedule. Even the supposedly original Brave was more of an uninspired rehash of other stuff. The risk-taking and brilliant innovation of films like Wall-E, Ratatouille and Up seems to be a thing of the past. Monsters University is a very decent prequel to Monsters Inc and is at times quite intelligent. It gives the unusual but true... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 21:24, 17 July 2013 | Report This Post


I didn't have huge expectations for Monsters University, although I think Monsters Inc. is one of Pixar's finest achievements. 12 years have passed, so why make a sequel now? Although, as animated movies take years to make, that thinking was probably with Pixar about 5 years ago. That said, MU is somewhat of a treat. It's certainly colourful, it it imaginative in its storytelling and like it's predecessor, has some great sight gags - the slowest slug ever on it's first day at uni for example.... More

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Posted by Mikehall1970 at 06:53, 16 July 2013 | Report This Post

it gets a 2:2

it's ok. quite funny and sweet, but nothing on the original ... More

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Posted by tysmuse at 21:51, 15 July 2013 | Report This Post


The chemistry between Billy Crystal and John Goodman is the heart of the film, and their enjoyment really shines through their performances. Monsters University is another triumph for Pixar, proving once again that U-rated films can be funny, engaging and relevant. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 13:49, 14 July 2013 | Report This Post

RE: Monsters University

Wow, no comments yet? I saw this with the Mrs last night and we had a brilliant time. I do believe people come in to every Pixar film expecting a masterpiece and this can have a detrimental effect on their enjoyment of them. I've read a lot of reviews that call the film average and I really think it is far from that. When I went to the cinema I was in an awful, grumpy mood and I left smiling from ear to ear. The film was sweet, thoughtful and hilarious. It has a surprisingly sobering and r... More

Posted by TrendMeUp at 11:15, 14 July 2013 | Report This Post

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