Monsters University REVIEW

Monsters University film review.

Monsters University

John Terry was nearby, dressed as a monster.

Release Date: 12 July 2013
U | 110 minutes
Distributor: Walt Disney
Director: Dan Scanlon
Cast: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina, Steve Buscemi

Those accusing Pixar of taking the easy road and pumping out sequels should remember that the company put a lot of work into making Toy Story 2 a classic years ago, and made us tear up with the superb Toy Story 3. And though Cars 2 felt like a duff effort, it was, after all, a sequel to a film few would consider the company’s finest hour.

Thankfully, director Dan Scanlon and his team have crafted a winning example of Pixar filmmaking for the Emeryville studio’s first prequel. Monsters University is a charming, clever, funny and welcome reminder as to why we loved Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) back in 2001. Or at least why we liked Mike – for when we meet the scare pair as fresh-faced teenagers just starting college, he’s a nerdy wannabe fright master and Sulley is a boorish, arrogant jock.

Turning back the clock to see how the friendship began was a good call, as it allows us to visit with our favourite beasties without feeling like we’ve seen it all before. Though the burden of foreknowledge (anyone who has seen Monsters, Inc knows that Mike’s life doesn’t turn out exactly as he imagined) might have stymied some, the writers and artists here use it to play with our expectations, allowing for a nice tweak to the underdog tale.

As usual, the level of detail is wonderful, with all manner of hairy, slimy, winged, beaked and tentacled creatures featured, including a few who will seem familiar. Helen Mirren, Alfred Molina and, in particular, Nathan Fillion provide great support, with Fillion channelling a hint of Captain Hammer into the privileged frat president Johnny Worthington.

Crystal and Goodman find fresh takes on their memorable monsters, and the tech team has gone to great lengths to find ways to make them youthful while keeping them recognisable – no easy task when one of your lead characters is an eyeball on stick legs.

American college life and its various rituals might not always strike a chord over here, but it has pervaded pop culture to such a degree that everything is familiar enough and the few references likely to sail over British heads don’t interrupt the enjoyment. Monsters University is a worthy addition to the Pixar class of classics.

James White

Watch the Monsters University trailer.
Read a Monsters University animator interview.
Read more of our film reviews.