Mike strives to make a great initial impression at the school by boning up on book learning, but things don't go as he hoped. He soon finds himself on the outs with the dean, but, determined to prove his scare bona fides, he makes a wager with her: He’ll enter the school’s Greek Scare Games with a team of other school castoffs. They include the arrogant, born-to-be-a-scarer Sullivan, who, until reality smacked him in the face, had taken for granted that scaring is his destiny.

The previously-established chemistry between Sully and Mike comes across in Monsters University, but part of the movie's problem is that the other sidekicks are forgettable. Rather than expanding on the relationship between Mike and Sullivan by adding well-defined supporting players to the Monsters universe, University treats the new side characters as padding. They play more like afterthoughts (Mike and Sullivan need a "team" to compete in the games, so let's invent a few supporting players) than characters we might long to see in a possible Monsters Inc. 3.

Genuine concerns haven't been raised about Pixar movies until recently. Now that the studio is developing sequels to its beloved original films (including a Finding Nemo follow-up called Finding Dory), it's showing signs of creative stagnation. Monsters University certainly could have been worse, but given Pixar's earlier output, this prequel is substandard, with a thoughtful message about accepting one's limitations coming only after a lot of water-treading in the story department.

Monsters University may be better (barely) than most animated films from competing studios, but it's another sign of a once great studio that's now in decline. The turnaround can't come soon enough.

CAUTIONS:

  • Language/Profanity: None; characters substitute nonsense phrases, such as "son of a mustache!" for better known coarse alternatives
  • Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: None
  • Sex/Nudity: None
  • Violence/Crime: Some exaggerated but mild cartoon-style violence; a characters says, "You could totally die" during the Scare Games
  • Religion/Morals: A wager between Mike and Dean Hardscrabble; fraternity brothers take a "sacred oath"; description of competitive victory as a "miracle"; cheating during a competition

Questions? Comments? Contact the writer at crosswalkchristian@hotmail.com.

Publication date: June 20, 2013