Monsters University (2013) scares up to the sequel challenge

Photo Credit: Monsters University / Walt Disney Studios
I am MonstersU. This phrase has been ringing in my family's ears since the initial promos for Monsters University were released last year. After finally getting my multiple scaly arms on a copy of the movie, I'm more certain than ever that I wish I could go to Monsters U....and that this may be Disney's best animated film in a long while.

Backtracking to when Mike Wazowski (as we know him in Monsters Inc one-half of the most successful scare team at the Scream Factory) was just a little tyke, the one-eyed green monster is a petite underestimated fellow. When his class goes on a field trip to the Scream Factory, he breaks into one of the kid's bedrooms to watch a veteran scarer at work. A passion is ignited and Mike is wholeheartedly determined to become a professional Scarer. Not taken seriously by his peers and looked down upon for his size and optimism, Mike is determined to prove his worth.

Growing up, Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) eventually is accepted to Monsters University attending a Scarers program where only the scariest monster earns the approval of the dean (voiced brilliantly by Helen Mirren). A familiar face and a student with an entirely different work ethic, Sulley, (voiced by John Goodman) have a natural gift of invoking fear and screams out of human children - the energy source of the monster universe. Yet the furry blue and purple giant lacks the studious discipline and fails to realize that there are more tactics to scaring than just roaring with all his might and showing off his claws.

As much as Mike and Sulley would love to never to see each other again, inevitably they become roommates. Sulley tries to use Mike to score with the jock crew Roar Omega Roar. Mike is angered by Sulley's disposable talent without accumulating knowledge about the art of scaring; he succeeds without really trying. Their competitive traits bring about more conflict. Forced to work together on their own misfit team in a campus-wide tournament called the Scare Games, their combative personalities and goals culminate into the worst kind of trouble when they are ultimately kicked out of Monsters University - an incident in which we finally see how Monsters Inc duo is formed. Having formed a friendship, they work side by side from the mail room towards their dreams. Knowing that they are bound for Scaring Glory, Sulley is the Brawn Scarer and Mike is the Brains.

As a college student, I thought the movie presented so many layers of conquering your fears about your intended profession, shining light on stereotypical beliefs of cliques, and that life has other plans in the story for us than the ones we strive for. There are only so many worthy Young Adult dramedies that have handled this subject, but it was a refreshing charming adventure to see it brought to life through the ridiculously creative and imaginative animation of Pixar. They delivered a funny, witty and relateable atmosphere about the overall college experience - human and monster.

Perhaps the biggest reason why I loved Monsters University is because it's a kid's movie for adults as much as it is for children. A few years ago I looked forward to the anticipating finale of the Toy Story series when the third movie was released. For more reasons than I have room to rant about here, the movie ultimately failed to illicit a satisfying emotional response. I was hesitant to see Monsters University, a prequel to Monsters Inc because I feared it would be worse than its predecessor. On the contrary, and more so than Toy Story 3, Monsters University offered far more coherent, compatible and entertaining storytelling. It reintroduced characters we are all familiar with and re-invented the way we can appreciate their depth.

Most viewers are turned off by the fact that Mike isn't fit to be a Scarer. As the audience, we are aware of this from the beginning, and eventually, watch his sad realization. It's not easy to know that Mike is not fit to be something he is so wildly passionate about, but something does come out of the fruit of his aspirations. Mike accepted that his strengths didn't involve scaring but motivational speaking, creating teamwork, and commanding leadership. Even Sulley, who always rested on his famous family name, learned that he could defy other's expectations that everything came easily to him.  Both learn that they can rely and depend on someone else rather than doing everything on their own.

What I think most people skip over is the brilliance that in life our plans don't always work out the way we want them to - especially in a college or just getting out in the world following graduation. We realize we weren't intended for a job we thought we were perfect for. We don't have to let that defeat us but adapting our true talents to something else. Rather than focus on the negative result that Mike didn't end up a Scarer, we can absorb the tried and true lesson that we have to adapt our plants to what life throws our way. If in our hearts we are fearless and determined, nothing can stop us. Maybe we'll even make a best bud for life along the way.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen Monsters Inc? What did you think?

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