When thinking of how to add to the monstrous legacy of the world of Monsters Inc., Pixar could not have made a better move than to go prequel and basically give us a tale of how monsters Mike and Sulley met. But this film is much more than an origins story for two of the most beloved characters in recent animation history.
It possesses the life lessons that have become a stalwart in the best that Pixar produces. Not only does it preach the power of self discovery, Monsters University also offers thrills and numerous moments featuring heartwarming bonding of characters beyond the two leads.
The question of how far back to go for a prequel also had to be a daunting task. Yet, filmmaker Dan Scanlon opens a world in the Monsters universe by having their film be a good old-fashioned college movie, albeit a G-rated one! The setting provides the find yourself platform, but also a bounty of university activities to drive the plot and produce laughter. We go inside Mike and Sulley's classes, dorm rooms and fraternity houses. Then there are the Scare Games that is at the true heart of the film.
As seen in this Monsters University clip when we experience Mike and Sulley's first morning in their frat house, the priceless chemistry from its leads has only enhanced with time. John Goodman as Sulley and Billy Crystal as Mike are a study in cinematic camaraderie. It is rare when an animated movie can achieve buddy brilliance as actors usually record their lines separately. Crystal and Goodman record together and that thespian kinship is felt in every frame. It is exactly why fan fervor for the Mike and Sulley show has only grown deeper over the last decade.
As Mike, Crystal digs deep. He knows that this confident Scarer from the first film had to believe that this line of work was a calling. But, all you would have to do is look at the one-eyed monster and know that it was a struggle to make it to the top.
Throughout Monsters University, Crystal is given the opportunity and triumphs in his ability to craft a character that is sure of himself, yet has no reason to be. He’s the classic works the hardest and is the smartest -- but it is still not enough persona. In the actor’s hands, his pre-Monsters Inc. Mike is as impeccably drawn (no pun intended) caricature as we’ve seen in an animated movie in a while.
And Goodman actually takes his Sulley and has to do the opposite. We learn that Sulley’s father was one of the best Scarers of all time and therefore, Sulley has not had to earn his place in school. It was given to him through legacy. Yet, once he is there… he still has to make his mark in order to be successful. It’s a personal awakening that is completely relatable for those entering college with bravado.
See, Mike and Sulley are two sides of the same coin when it comes to storytelling. And the good news in our Monsters University review is that the duo that is the heart and soul of the Monsters franchise, have only become even richer characters since Monsters, Inc. as their growth can now be measured.