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Good to be Back: My Wistful Journey through Monsters University

by on June 26, 2013

Mike and the gang return to remind us what childhood is all about. (Photo: Pixar)

Boy, it’s been a while since Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) teamed up for Monsters, Inc. (2001). It’s also been a while since I last sat down and watched a kids movie (I believe Toy Story 3 in 2010 was the last “kids” movie I saw).

I have been too busy trying to convince myself that I was too old for kids movies, that I was only worthy of watching ACADEMY AWARD-NOMINATED* movies! But it turns out, Disney and Pixar’s latest heartwarming children’s flick, Monsters University (2013), was exactly what I needed.

*I’m not saying Monsters University won’t win/be nominated for an Academy Award because it very well may be nominated in the Animated Feature Film category.

Just as Sulley needed Mike to help him become the best scarer he could be, I needed a movie to remind me what life was like before the innocence was stripped away, before crime, corruption and everything dark in the world became a part of everyday life. At least for a couple hours, Monsters University brought me back to the days when the only thing I was worried about was when the big white ice cream truck would come around the corner.

Mike (left) and Sulley return 12 years after “Monsters, Inc.” for the long-anticipated prequel, “Monsters University.” (Photo: Wikipedia)

In the parallel universe of monsters that Mike and Sulley occupy, life is a matter of discovering the good in everyone and accepting everyone (no matter how many eyes they have) for who they are on the inside. As Mike tells his friends when they leave campus to take a look at the professional scarers at Monsters Incorporated, none of them have anything in common with each other, and that is what makes them all great.But not everyone at Monsters University is accepting as Mike, despite it being an incredibly tame college campus compared to the real world. The worst things that happen are pig-stealing and dousing uncool kids with paint and stuffed animals in order to embarrass them on the front page of the school newspaper (okay, that’s pretty rough). But, it is no different than any real college campus in that it revolves around social acceptance.

Interestingly, the movie addresses this conflict through Greek life, probably the biggest source of real-life “troublemaking” on college campuses in the United States. Of course, the movie doesn’t really delve into the dark side of Greek life* because, you know, there are kids watching, but being socially accepted is as critical a part of the fraternities and sororities at MU as it is at any real university.

*Although Sulley plays in an extremely suggestive form of ping-pong at a party where they bounce balls onto some type of passed-out slug.

SPOILER ALERT! The film takes place over the course of three main acts:

  1. Mike studies desperately for a final exam to stay in the Scare Program
  2. Mike teams up with Sulley for a high-stakes wager in the school’s Fear Games (or in Mike’s case, Hunger Games)
  3. Sulley attempts to save Mike from a metaphorical suicide attempt.


But, all the while, the film maintains a loose, fun atmosphere, as even the film’s antagonist turns to the good side before the movie’s end.* And the whole time, you know that things are going to turn out alright and that Mike and Sulley will fulfill their dreams as scarers because that’s just the way things should be.

*The movie also sets the groundwork for a villain in the sequel! Stay tuned for its release in 2001!

And that’s what is great about Disney and kids movies in general, however undoubting and hopeful they may be. They reinforce the childhood hope we have deep-down inside of ourselves that everything is going to be alright and that all of our hopes and dreams will be fulfilled.

Because that’s the way it should be. Monsters University may not be the best kids movie ever—heck, it may not be the best kids movie this year—but it follows the formula of a feel-good film to perfection.

And isn’t that why we go to the movies after all? Don’t we want to feel good about ourselves on the way out? And just maybe reinforce our faith in humanity a little bit?

Man, I missed you, childhood. Hopefully we can catch up again sometime.

From → Movie Reviews

  1. Hello, Taylor. Nice thoughts on MU. It’s always best to keep childhood close to heart. Gets harder at my age but…

    Anyway, thanks for pointing me to your review. Enjoyed it.

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