Film Review: Monsters University

2013 animated/comedy: Directed by Dan Scanlon; starring: Billy Crystal, John Goodman, and Steve Buscemi. [rated G] Stars given: 5/5.

“I seem scary most of the time, but the truth is, I’m terrified.”

Forget about “Animal House”. Forget about “St. Elmo’s Fire”. Forget even about 2008’s film, “college”. THIS is the real “college experience” film.

Monsters University” (aka: “Monsters U”) is the prequel to “Monsters Inc”, essentially an origin story of everyone’s two favorite scarers. With an emphasis on Mike Wazowski, this film shows what happens when two unlikely people… erm, monsters… give it their all to beat the odds and, not only win the hearts of everyone that told them they couldn’t do it, but also become friends in the process.

Does this story sound familiar? Of course it does—it’s the underdog story that everyone has heard a thousand times before! It’s “The Odd Couple” meets “Rudy”. So, why should you pay any attention to this particular film?

Simply put: “Monsters University” is one of the most realistic college experiences shown in any fictional film.

Let’s start off with the look of “Monsters University”. Pixar sent their people out to collect images of campuses and campus life alike in order to give the most realistic look of the buildings and fraternity houses. Add in the professors, who can, on occasion, be understanding, show preferential treatment, and even be impressed by those who do the honest hard work. Mike gives a good example of just how MUCH hard work there is when it comes to studying for college, but also just how hard it is to avoid accidentally getting drawn in to partying, while Dean Hardscrabble shows the humanity beneath a college’s unflinching rules.

Fans have filled various online message boards with angry words directed towards both Disney and Pixar in regards to Dean Hardscrabble, ranting against the studios for portraying such a negative female character.

However, this reviewer thinks they are missing the point entirely. Dean Hardscrabble is possibly the most fleshed out character in the entire film. She is given a background—she was a scarer who holds an unbeatable record—which explains the mindset in which she rules the Scare program at her college—that the best scarers are only seen in one type of monster—and, when she is proven wrong, she is big enough to admit her mistake.

Ok, so, that means, over the course of the film, we see: ego, anger, amusement, brutal honesty, shock, humbleness, and respect. This makes Dean Hardscrabble the only character to show such an incredible amount of development throughout the entire film. Mike and Sully certainly don’t show that much development; sure, they start out as kids, annoy each other, reluctantly team up, and, eventually, find a mutual respect, thusly becoming the characters we already know… but that isn’t real character development, that’s the plot.

Amongst the usual litany of feel good messages put out towards the underaged audience—don’t judge a book by its cover, cheaters never win, your efforts will always be rewards, etc –the most impressive message is the one they avoid using: if you want something bad enough, you’ll eventually get it. Rather, “Monsters University” stresses the point that, no matter how much talent you might have or how much you really want it, you can’t always get what you want; however, if you truly put in the hard work and start from the bottom/ come in at a different position, you can stay close to your dreams as you work your way up until you reach them.

And, that, ladies and gentlemen, makes “Monsters University” the most realistic college film ever, certainly worth its five out of five rating.


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