When Monsters, Inc. came out in 2001, it was the first movie my daughter saw in a theater. She spent a good part of the movie sitting in my lap, a little on edge whenever the monsters went to work scaring children. In the end, though, she enjoyed it. The original movie turned the monster-under-the-bed story on its ear, because the monsters were at least as terrified of the children as the children were of the monsters. In the end, of course, kids learned that their fears of those different from themselves are often unwarranted, a great storyline to bring out a month after the events of 9/11.
Last weekend, being the good Pixar fans that we are, my kids and I piled into the minivan for a summer movie outing to the sequel, Monsters University. I guess every modern hero needs an origins story—in this one we learn how Mike and Sulley became friends. Instead of keeping the monsters’ world a new and separate place from our own, Monsters University brings all the monsters into what is, at least in theory, a human world—college. This is Revenge of the Nerds, monster style.
An odd assortment of misfit monsters band together to form their own fraternity, and they are determined to win the Scare Games, a popular competition ruled by the coolest of the campus Greek societies. There are lots of twists on typical college movies, and all ages in my family (ranging from 10 to none-of-your-business) found humor in it. There’s also an emphasis on ethics that I appreciated. Taking the easy way out is never rewarded. I particularly liked the way it addressed Mike and Sulley’s eventual path from college to becoming official scarers. It’s a decent movie.
However, I couldn’t help but hope for more.
The fun characters are all there, as is the imaginative color and animation. But the filmmakers forgot one thing: children. The collision of two worlds is what made Monsters, Inc. so interesting. Our familiar world bumped up against a completely imagined world, and trusting young Boo was our sole representative. This time around, it seems they left kids out completely: What does a 6-, 8-, or 10-year-old know about college or fraternities? At a couple of quiet, slow moments, I could hear the children rebelling. The youngest ones got loud, chatting or whining or asking for candy.
All in all, we had a pleasant time at the theater, but I’d just as happily have settled for watching this one on my basement TV in a few months when it’s on DVD or Netflix. (Disney)