2013 Running time: 100 Certificate: u Rating: 4

Synopsis

It's Monsters, Inc: The Student Days as the animation geniuses at Pixar take us back to Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sulley's (John Goodman) first year in college - when they didn't exactly see eye to eye. When their rivalry sees them kicked out of the university's prestigious Scare Program, the pair are forced to enter the annual Scare Games to regain their frightful place. As if the challenge wasn't tough enough, they have to win it with the least fearsome fraternity on campus. Whatever happens, the class of Pixar comes through with honours.

Director

  • Dan Scanlon

Cast

  • Billy Crystal

  • John Goodman

  • Steve Buscemi

  • Helen Mirren

  • Alfred Molina

  • Nathan Fillion

Review

Ah (or should that be "argh"?), Monsters, Inc. Where would the good citizens of Monstropolis be without the dedicated company that powers the city with the energy of human screams? Stuck in the closet, that's where.

Chief among its employees are the 'scarers', the highly skilled elite who slip into children's bedrooms through specially built doorways to scare 700 decibels of pure terror out of their slumbering occupants.

Of course not all monsters are scarers. Yet while greener and wider-eyed than most, young Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) always believed he was made of the fright stuff.

And, as we saw back in 2001, he was to become one of the best, forming the most successful scare team in Monsters, Inc history with hairy blue behemoth 'Sulley' Sullivan (John Goodman).

But as this worthy prequel shows, they nearly didn't make it.

As freshmen at Monsters University, nerdy Mike has to get by on brains and hard work whereas swaggering Sulley, whose dad was a campus legend, expects to coast through on his reputation and roar alone.

Sadly, their David and Goliath act merely serves to get them kicked off the Scare Program by the formidable Dean Hardscrabble (a cross between a bat and a centipede with the voice of Helen Mirren).

Only by winning the university's Scare Games will she let them back on the course. Unfortunately, the only fraternity left for them to join is Oozma Kappa, a bunch of misbegotten geeks who couldn't strike fear into a paranoid deer.

You can probably see where it goes from here as the underdogs compete against much scarier opposition with a combination of wits, friendship and teamwork.

This being Pixar, the life lessons serve the main event(s) and not the other way round, amusing training montages leading to a rip-roaring competition that puts the teams through tests of skill, stealth and scream power.

Along the way it paves the way for future events, including how the enmity arose between our heroes and skittering sneak Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi).

It also shows that the studio is still pushing the boundaries of animation. However, twelve years after wowing us with the wonder of Sulley's fur ("Look - every hair moves!"), the advances in Monsters University are more subtle.

Here the devil (or monster) is in the lighting details, so you might not even notice. But from sunny autumn mornings to rainy afternoons and gloaming dusks, it feels like the couldn't-be cartoonier characters are going about their business in a very real world.

Is Pixar getting ready to put their creations next to living, breathing actors? They'd be keeping up a Disney tradition that's been going since Mary Poppins was a lass, and it's been 25 years since Roger Rabbit took Hollywood by storm. Imagine what they can do now.

In the meantime, leave your door open a crack for this lot.

Elliott Noble

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