Review: Monsters University ★★★★☆

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Hotly awaited prequel Monsters University triumphantly reunites audiences with their favourite characters from Pixar’s 2001 hit Monsters Inc.

The film, perhaps unsurprisingly, is set for the most part at the prestigious Monsters University. It follows the misadventures of Mike and Sulley as they try to get readmitted to the scarers’ course from which they have been expelled through winning the Scare Games. Their team, composed of an unlikely mixture of the least scary monsters in school, soon realises they have their work cut out if they want to avoid the forfeit of leaving Monsters University forever.

Across the board, the voice acting is highly impressive. John Goodman and Billy Crystal are excellent as Sulley and Mike but they are by no means head and shoulders above the rest of the actors in the film. If I were forced to single out one actor, there is no doubt in my mind whom I would choose. Although she may claim to have found her role difficult, Helen Mirren excels in bringing to life the character of Dean Abigail Hardscrabble. The character is the most disdainful educator to have graced our screens since the disappearance of Alan Rickman’s Severus Snape and, in my opinion, is every bit as entertaining as Hogwarts’ dour potions master.

The only slight disappointment for me in terms of characterisation was the role of Randall. Starting off as a meek and mild social outcast the character quickly shows signs of developing into the antagonist that we saw in the earlier film. The transformation is rushed, unconvincing and underwhelming, leading me to question whether I even cared about this particular character’s journey. I concluded, with regret, that I actually didn’t.

Visually, the film is beautiful. It is clear that Pixar’s animators have taken great delight in creating a small army of new monsters as well as in expanding the world in which they live. The visual is complimented by Randy Newman’s predominantly instrumental soundtrack, his seventh collaboration with Pixar as a composer. Admittedly the music may not stick long in the minds of the audience but it is unobstrusive and sets the tone for the progression of the narrative well. The film is a wonderful escapist experience; although it may be a cliché to say as much, it seems sure to reacquaint viewers with their inner child. In addition, the movie certainly seems to have general appeal – I was surprised to see that not one member of the audience in my local cinema looked to be under the age of sixteen.

Monsters University links beautifully with its predecessor. The prequel is strong and assured in its own right, offering subtle nods and appreciated comic references to the earlier film rather than treating it as a life support machine for tired gags. I particularly appreciated the cameo reappearances of more minor characters such as Roz and The Abominable Snowman towards the end of the movie.

When Pixar release a feature-length film there is undoubtedly an expectation of quality. Although some nay-sayers may say that it is only a matter of time before the studio’s luck runs out there are no signs that this has happened here. Monsters University is the latest in a long line of successes and will be enjoyed by young and old alike.

Monsters University (2013), directed by Dan Scanlon, is distributed in the UK by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, Certificate U.

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