What’s that coming over the hill..?
Some people might argue that sequels are inherently fated to fail, forever doomed by the success of the original and inescapably lingering in their predecessor’s shadow. But for every Grease 2 and Speed 2: Cruise Control, there’s The Godfather Part II and The Empire Strikes Back. Pixar rather emphatically quashed such suggestions with Toy Story 2 and 3 – two sequels which (arguably) are as good, if not better than their animated ancestor. But is Pixar’s second monster mash a dead cert smash?
Pixar’s first prequel, Monsters University is an origin story of University adversity: when Mike met Sulley. Michael “Mike” Wazowski has dreamed of being the scariest scarer at Monsters, Inc ever since he was a little monster. Now a scare major, who isn’t majorly scary, Mike begins University and meets James P. “Sulley” Sullivan – a furry, blue giant who is riding the coattails of his family’s name. After suffering setbacks due to their fierce rivalry, Mike and Sulley must work together as they compete in the Scare Games, a frightening mini-Olympics. And with one huge, shiny eye on the prize, Mike assembles a bunch of mismatched monsters and devises scare tactics to give his fraternity a leg, paw and tentacle up on the competition.
The film just screams beauty; it’s a florid canvas dripping with a profusion of vivid colours and glorious textures and shapes. Some monsters ooze charm, others ooze wit, whilst some just simply ooze. And with an abundance of voice actors who are every bit as dynamic as these creatures great and small, from Billy Crystal and John Goodman, to Helen Mirren and Nathan Fillion, it’s as animated as animation can be. It truly is a resplendent realisation of Pixar’s imagination, which frequently tugs on the heartstrings, and is surprisingly even a little scary at times.
Unfortunately, the problem with Monsters University lies in this fact: whilst fans of the original might have matured over time, the plot and characters have regressed, and despite many amusing instances, it doesn‘t quite register the amount of laughter that powered the cinemas and the world of Monsters, Inc the first time round. And considering where Pixar left the story in 2001, it just doesn’t seem a logical narrative advancement. Instead, it almost undermines the former’s moralistic ending – when Monsters, Inc became Feel Good Inc – and the lack of the adorable little Boo is sorely evident.
But fear not, it is by no means abominable. Although Monsters University isn’t as incredible as The Incredibles, and doesn’t ascend to the lofty, heartbreaking heights of Up, it’s still miles better than Cars 2 and the usual kiddie flick, making for some solid family entertainment which children will adore.