Appropriate for a film about college, Monsters University is absolutely filled with lessons about friendship, growing up and achieving your goals. Pixar smartly decided that a prequel better suited Monsters, Inc. and it allowed a new aspect of this world to be explored. Nearly all the familiar faces are back, just younger. In a fresh take, Mike and Sullivan aren’t the best of friends from the original film – instead they’re college rivals.
Sullivan is the cocky student riding the coattails of his famous last name. Mike is the hard-working brainy student determined to prove his place in the world of scaring. It’s a surprisingly wonderful film. Pixar has continually advanced the power of computer animation and MU is no exception. (The most improved talent of the graphics has to be lighting and shading.) It feels distinctly like college to adults, while it feels like a fun place to watch our familiar friends compete for kids.
The surprising third act is full of fantastic lessons for children growing up. It goes for the lessons that college films generally gloss over and presents some seriously alternative lessons on achieving goals. (I won’t say more for now. I’ll have a more complete analysis of this in a future article). The journey that Mike and Sully take that leads from competitive rivals to future best friends never feels rushed and also feels truly authentic.
In the end Monsters University is a thrill for adults just as much as it was for kids. While some critics have said it lacks the heart of previous films, I’d argue it’s just as much there as any previous Pixar film, just more cleverly disguised.
NOTE: The opening short The Blue Umbrella is by far the most breathtaking visual achievement Pixar has released yet – short or feature. Parents in our audience were stunned by the story and visuals while children nearby were audibly restless. When the short ended, nearly every parent in the audience was clapping while the kids looked around confused as to what was such a big deal.