Pixar are noted for firsts, and this is another one: their first-ever prequel. It’s been 12 years (!) since Michael ‘Mike’ Wazowski and James P ‘Sulley’ Sullivan charmed the planet as two monsters who work for a company named Monsters, Inc. The original movie raked in over half-a-billion dollars, putting this follow-up under a lot of pressure to deliver, both in terms of entertainment and box office.
Billy Crystal and John Goodman are back voicing Mikey and Sulley, who both enrol at Monsters University in order to learn how to scare children. It’s very much a coming-of-age movie, especially for Mikey, who starts out as a wide-eyed teenager (well, what other kind of teenager could he be?), and Crystal’s character steals the show in what’s basically a frat movie, but much more fun than that much-maligned genre would indicate.
Initially, Mike and Sulley don’t get along. Mike’s hanging out at the more geeky end of monster college life, while Sulley is the head jock and a complete butt-ache. As we all know, this will change and part of the movie’s attraction is seeing the two oddballs gradually bring out the best in each other and become best pals.
And while Monsters University suffers slightly in comparison with its predecessor (after all, we've seen these guys before), it’s still an awful lot of fun, and offers plenty of affirmative guides to young viewers – especially in terms of being positive, being yourself, and having the will to believe in yourself, especially in testing circumstances.
Although Mikey is at centre stage for almost the entire film – it must be exhausting being such a busy eyeball – Helen Mirren almost gets the Monster of the Match award for her portrayal of the chilling Dean Hardscrabble, the university head who sets the boys up to compete together in a series of tests in order to keep themselves at college when they get themselves expelled.
It’s a given that a Pixar movie will look amazing and Monsters University is no different, and it shows off its animation skills quite impressively during a frat party scene. Also, Nathan Fillion – formerly of Joss Whedon's classic Firefly and currently the star of whodunit hit, Castle – is perfectly cast as the cocky Johnny J Worthington III, president of Roar Omega Roar, a fraternity of notable scarers, and the token bad boy of the plot. It all rolls merrily along without making too many demands of the viewer.
Parents/adults won’t be bored either, and will also be delighted that, once again, Pixar have produced a very funny, entertaining and heart-warming movie that will show kids that monsters - and life - maybe aren’t as scary as you think.
Well, except for Dean Hardscrabble.