With Brave not living up to its many expectations and Cars 2 being straight-to-video rubbish (yeah, I said it), the prospect of another Monsters Inc. film came with its own set of fears. But despite the hefty pressure from pessimistic naysayers (myself included), Pixar has created a cinema rarity: a great prequel to a beloved property.
A family-friendly comedy about life on campus sounds like a total paradox, yet the character roster of college clichés lends itself so well to exuberantly monstrous parody that it makes you wonder why they didn’t do it earlier. None exemplify this more than Art, the philosophy student who spaces out at the sight of a butterfly. How they manage to animate a purple furry lower case ‘n’ with such believability is anyone’s guess, but he is only one of many aspects that make up this visual power-bomb of vibrant colour, chaotic creativity and frighteningly meticulous attention to detail. That merit also extends to the generously ushered gags: the young-uns were giggling at the slug who sprints like a glacier while a multi-limbed creature chugging three cups of pre-exam coffee had me chuckling out of nostalgia.
The voices of Charlie Day and the radically intimidating Helen Mirren prove to be pitch-perfect additions while Billy Crystal and John Goodman continue the same quality vocal partnership they showed in Inc. – it’s as if they never got out of the recording booth (for Crystal, that’s a real possibility).
While University spouts some eye-rollingly predictable plot-turns that would be atypical of Pixar’s narrative majesty of yore, their storytelling power comes into force in the third act, which presents an interpretation of failure as a necessity for growth. It’s not about what you’re built for but what you can build yourself to become, the film suggests, a point brilliantly executed in a climax that proves Mike’s talents as an orchestrator of fear.