But it was by Pixar, so that (almost) goes without saying.
The College Scene
The general setting isn’t bad. The exaggeration of college life, good and bad, is something of par for the course. At least they were reasonable, and didn’t have the students partying all the time. Or studying all the time, for that matter.
One thing I did love was the references to the rivalry between Fear Tech and Monsters University. That sort of thing… totally happens.
The other tidbit that makes me really happy is that Sulley, the monster who thinks he’s already an awesome scarer and college is pretty much a formality (and for partying), doesn’t put a lot of effort in despite his natural talent, and gets poor grades, whereas Mike, a scaring major who… isn’t that scary, knows all the theory by heart, and aces everything.
On the other hand, I wonder about the message regarding Mike’s career aspiration. He really, really, really wants to be a scarer. And he’s done all the hard work to be a good one. Except… well, he’s an eyeball with arms and legs. Supposedly, the fact that he is small and bowling-ball shaped means that he’s not scary. So, my first point is that yes, actually, Mike should be able to be very effectively creepy. The “Mike is not scary” bit would make more sense if he was pink and bunny-shaped.
Second… well, it’s an odd message. He can try as hard as he likes, but in this setting, he’s just not going to make it. He’s really good at coaching other monsters at scaring, though. Perhaps they’re trying to hit some sort of “if one thing doesn’t work out, you have other strengths and options,” kind of angle.
A Little Retcon
There was a small, deliberate retcon on the part of the writers. Mike and Sulley meet for the first time at Monsters University. The writers had thought about including a scene showing them meeting in elementary for the first time, referencing Mike’s statement about envying Sulley’s looks “since fourth grade.”
But they chose to drop that. Explanations: They did meet, at least briefly, but it wasn’t shown, and they didn’t really remember each other. Or, “envy since fourth grade” is a monster-universe idiom for “since pretty much forever.” Or something like that. I can understand the choice on the part of the writers in this case, though — an extra early years scene probably would have felt forced, and seeing the two guys meet as freshman was interesting.
Where Did You Get Your Data?
One thing that I’m wondering, both for this film and Monsters Inc., is how the whole scream-extraction thing got started. Who made the first doors? Who goes in to determine that little Suzy is afraid of lions and thunder before the official scarer goes in? How do the monsters learn about human culture? Very mysterious.
Randall, the Bad Guy
Randall, the villain from the first movie, shows up again. But, he starts out as the roommate and friend of Mike. Then he does the typical thing of falling in with the bad and popular crowd of “cool kids” and, well, that goes about as well as it usually does.
What I wonder is just how realistic this is. I know that we are influenced by the people we choose to associate with; but how many people go to college, join a stuck-up fraternity, and come out of it self-centered jerks?
Adult Screams Work Too
Revelation: It’s not just human kids whose screams provide power. It’s humans in general. Kids are just safer to scare, since the parents won’t believe that there’s a real monster in their closet…
Of course, Mike and Sulley get into a pickle where they have to scare a bunch of adult humans without getting caught by them. They succeed, and escape back to the monster world.
… so, if that’s true, why not build a side-door to a horror movie theater? I’d assume there’d be lots of good screams there. And given that, why not tell the humans what you’re doing?
That, and, well… since laughter is so much more effective, and scaring has been happening so long, you’d think that they would have figured out the laughter thing earlier. But that’s more a Monsters Inc question than something specific to Monster’s University.
For their crazy hijinks, Sulley and Mike are expelled.
They don’t get an exception for being awesome, or because the dean likes them at the end. They’re done.
I approve. This tends to be one of the things that bothers me most about high school or college films — the heroes can get away with just about anything short of murder. Except this time, they don’t. They’re expelled, and have to deal with the consequences. There’s a nice montage at the end about how they work themselves up to being Scarers, and it clearly takes them quite a bit of time and drudgery.
Stay in school, kids. And don’t go through door portals to freak out the adult humans without permission.