Have you seen Revenge of the Nerds? Van Wilder? Old School? If you’re five probably not. But if you have a five year old child then maybe. Did you love those movies? Then you’re in for a treat.
Monsters University plays as the perfect kind of college buddy friendship building comedy where we witness the genesis of these two characters bond being made over the silliest of moments where everything slowly but surely proves itself that they are going to be the best of friends forever. Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sullivan (John Goodman) have just begun their lives as students in the scaring program in Monsters University. Mike is the overachiever who believes so blindly that he can do it if he works at it even though he has no natural talent in actually being frightening and Sullivan is the prodigy of a great that has so much natural talent that he refuses to try and be any better. They are however both cut from the program and in an attempt to re-enter the program they participate in the college’s “Scaring Games”, a fraternity competition, with the least popular fraternity, Oozma Kappa.
Let me be the first to proclaim this film as imperfect. However, that is not a bad thing. Movies are not supposed to be this intricately constructed being that makes the best of sense all the while. When a film exists it is to tell a direct idea/story and does all in its power to benefit that singular idea so much that it ignores everything else. In this case, with Monsters University, we’re here to follow Mike and Sully as they go through this time period where their rivalry actually ends up creating their friendship and the film gets that so right that any critiques one could bring up against the college frat comedy or even the few non Mike and Sully gags that don’t quite land (as few as they are) would be completely missing the point.
So, while I focus so acutely on Mike and Sully’s friendship building the rest of the movie is pretty great. When we get into Oozma Kappa and meet the likes of Squishy (Peter Sohn), Don (Joel Murray), Terri (Sean Hayes), Terry (Dave Foley) and Art (Charlie Day) it kind of all clicks. The idea of the fraternity of guys that doesn’t quite make sense but doesn’t care works. It’s mainly because we take on the perspective of Mike, the one who wants to use them for the end goal, and Sully, the guy who looks down on them because like how he sees Mike as unscary and humours them, and this idea works to the advantage because when we finally see everyone buying into the idea of being a ‘real’ fraternity and giving it a real go it means that much more to us, because then it does for Mike and Sully.
However, the finally twenty minutes of this movie is sheer perfection. Between the scene with Mike and Sully where they finally lay all the cards on the table and the final ‘scaring’ scene Pixar has surpassed any expectations I had for this movie. Part of it is how it reminded me that so many of of fears exists because of our childhood and no matter how grown up we get and try to tell ourselves that this fear is silly and we shouldn’t be afraid we are in some ways still. Another part is just understanding more and more where the tropes of the horror genre come from and why they work so well (when they work). Scary is scary, and that’s what Mike and Sully tell us all the while.
Can I ask Pixar for a Monsters Inc sequel where we get to see Mike working on his comedy routine? Just a thought. Maybe they can have Sully try to be funny.