Firstly and most importantly: Monsters University is not as good as Monsters Inc. But although it is less funny and more predictable than its illustrious predecessor, this story of how well-loved monsters as Mike and Sully actually met isn’t without charm. The strength of the characters alone ensures the film does just enough to keep audiences engaged.
Mike has always wanted to be a scarer, so when he enrols at Monsters University he thinks his dream is about to come true. Unfortunately for him, no-one else believes he is remotely scary, including his best-pal-to-be, James Sullivan. Undeterred, Mike teams up with some equally unscary monsters and enters the Scare Games to prove himself. Along the way other minor plot points from the previous film are elaborated on, such as the origin of the rivalry between Sully and villain-to-be Randall.
Director Dan Scalon ensures the animation is at the usual ridiculously high standard. Vocal performances from Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi and newcomer Helen Mirren are all superb, and there are lots of fun background in-jokes (my personal favourite being Randall’s “Winds of Change” poster on his dorm bedroom wall). A few sequences recall the greatness of the previous film, such as a hilarious set piece in a library, but in spite of all this, Monsters University is ultimately nothing more than a curious afterthought.
Morally this is a straightforward tale of teamwork and discovering what you’re good at (as opposed to what you think you’re really good at). Nothing particularly profound or insightful, nor is it anywhere near as poignant as the films from what I am now calling the Golden Age of Pixar, namely the last decade.
That said Monsters University is diverting enough for a family trip to the cinema this summer. It is good, but nothing more.