First Look review: Monsters University ★★★★☆

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Now this is such a joy. A prequel with as much heart and soul as the original. A group of characters that are not only both lovable and flawed, but consistently entertaining. A wonderfully rich and colourful animated world where you can get lost in. Yes, I am very pleased to say that Monsters University is a terrific film. It’s perhaps not got the initial flavour of genius that the 2003 outing had, but there is plenty here to relish.

The movie takes us back in time to when Mike and Sully where university friends. Well, friends is perhaps the wrong word. They are enemies, to start with. Sully comes from a privileged background of famous ‘Scarers’, so teachers are immediately fond of him. Mike Wazowski, however, is not. He may study hard, but everyone is prejudiced towards him because of his height, his voice and lack of presence. He is just not scary, so his time on the Scare course at Monsters University is short lived. When both he and Sully are disgraced due to a classroom argument, the two Monsters must compete as part of a team of outcasts in the annual student scare competition, held on the uni’s campus. The intimidating university Dean (voiced magnificently by Helen Mirren) says that they can take part so long as they agree to leave the university if they do not win.

The story may at first seem predictable, but thankfully the ending is a welcome surprise, and joins the movie up nicely with Monsters Inc.

The voice actors are, as always, simply superb. John Goodman (who seems to be in everything at the moment, from BBC dramas to the dire new Hangover movie) returns to voice Sully, as does Billy Crystal, whose voice makes Mike so endearing.

At the film’s press conference I asked Helen Mirren about how she felt about acting solely with her voice rather than her body, and she commented how difficult voice acting is and how she believes British actors don’t usually do it as well. In her opinion, the Americans are best at voicing animations.

If one was going to criticise, it could be argued the story isn’t as tightly or sophisticatedly structured as the original. But, then again, this is supposed to be university. These monsters are young, happy and free. It makes sense for the film to play with this whilst still using the foundation of the scare competition to provide some sense of narrative order.

Pixar works best when they aim to be universal. Many of their films can be enjoyed by anyone, young or old. This one perhaps slightly tips towards the young end of the audience spectrum, but I’m sure many over 18s (or, indeed, over 65s) will still find much to enjoy. Monsters University is a triumph. Many will adore it.

Monsters University (2013), directed by Dan Scanlon, is released in UK cinemas on 12 July, Certificate U. Watch the trailer below. Click here to win some Monsters University Prizes! 

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Second year BA Film & English Student. Watches too many films and enjoys good novels.

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