While it lacks the originality of Monsters Inc. and sorely misses the input of Boo, Monsters University can be proud to call itself a prequel to one of Pixar's finest.
Set years before they became the best team on the scare floor at Monsters Inc, Sully (Goodman) and Mike (Crystal, sounding more and more like Nathan Lane) were rivals at college. The studious Mike and jock Sully lock horns on their first day at Monsters University but, when a typical flare up results in the smashing of a prized scare canister owned by Dean Hardscrabble (Mirren), they are forced to team up with a nerdy fraternity to compete in a series of grueling tests to stave off expulsion.
While it smacks of Revenge of the Nerds meets Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, don't let the the lack of originality detract from what is a fun time. The giggles are consistent and the trials Mike and Sully's fraternity are put through are exciting stuff. The new characters – the bumbling members of their fraternity – are a welcome addition. The animation is outstanding; first time director Dan Scanlon places as many scenes as he can outside because Pixar seem to have solved the natural light problem. They're just gorgeous to look at.
But it's not without its niggly bits. Steve Buscemi's Randall looks like he's going to be the chief villain again until he's suddenly and inexplicably sidelined by Mirren's dean and Nathan Fillion's cliched bad boy. And we're made wait a long time for John Ratzenberger's cameo. While all this is forgivable, what is sorely missing is Boo. Not that we expect her appearance in a prequel but the lovable scamp was the big beating heart of Monsters Inc. and Monsters University has nothing on campus to match that. As a result it's never as engaging as its predecessor.
It's got its faults but they're minor and I'll take another Monsters movie before another Cars any day.