Review – Summer School (Monsters University)

The first prequel from the house of Pixar…

“Monsters University” sets up the early life of Mike Wazkowski (Billy Crystal) a big green single-eye’d child who, on a school field trip to Monsters, Inc with his classmates, sees other monsters on their job as a scarer for that company. Mike is awestruck and wants more than anything else in the world to be a scarer! Don’t get it? You’ll probably want to watch “Monsters, Inc” again to catch up on all the references and the set-ups to this movie, so be fair warned.

Anyway, Mike’s life-long obsession becomes close to reality when he enrolls at Monsters University, THE place for students to learn the finer techniques of scaring human children into obtaining their scream energy. There, super-vigilant and academic-minded Mike meets his roomie, Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) and then his nemesis…super-jock and ego-maniac, Jimmy “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman). Since Jimmy’s dad was a legendary M.U. scarer, he figures he can skate on his roar alone. But after a fluke accident, both Mike and Jimmy run afoul of the school’s Dean, Abigail Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren). She kicks them both out of scare class and will only allow them back in IF they win the school’s annual Scare Games, along with the members of their pathetic little fraternity, Oozma Kappa.

The games are fraught with dangers that, Mike comes to understand, are going to be a real challenge due to the team of misfits he has to deal with. We meet two-headed Terri & Terry Perry (Sean Hayes & Dave Foley) who are into magic tricks, Scott “Squishy” Squibbles (Peter Sohn) who, although painfully shy, pops-up whenever you don’t expect him, Art (Charlie Day) a wild ‘n’ wacky tube-like thingy, Don Carton (Joel Murray) a middle-aged founding frat member who rather just sit & reminiscence, plus Sully who’s all gung-ho for winning (and winning at all costs) because he wants to show up his frat brothers at Roar Omega Roar (R.O.R.), lead by B.M.O.C. Johnny Worthington (Nathan Fillion).

The biggest problem on the team is Mike. His huge head is only matched by his huge ego and total inability to really scare anybody, even though he thinks he can; no one has the heart to tell him the truth. The championship games are riding on the team coming together as one, and after an illegal rendezvous at the Monsters, Inc plant one night, they learn the meaning of teamwork and friendship.

True to basic story formula, and through wacky and sometimes unexpected circumstances, Team Oozma Kappa advances all the way to the finals to meet R.O.R. where, unbelievably, Oozma Kappa wins! But did they? Were the games rigged in their favor? The truth comes out and Mike is determined to prove his scare mettle…only with disastrous results and Sully has to come to his rescue…with disastrous results!

With fierce determination, teamwork, and a two guys finally coming to grips with WHO they are and WHAT they are in a wonderfully written scene that is for the adults in the audience, the ending crackles with excitement. The only problem is, if you follow the natural course of the characters, the finale at the school doesn’t make any sense. Yes, the movie has show HOW Mike & Sully wound up employed at Monsters, Inc…but not at the expense of you scratching your head and mumbling, whaaaaaa???!!!

But don’t let that cockamamie finale keep you from this seeing this gem. If you’re a fan of “Monsters, Inc”, you’ll love this movie as it answers alot of the questions you had about the characters, like: where did Randall Boggs get his hatred of Sully from? Where do they get those closet doors from? And why did the Abominable Snowman (John Ratzenberger) get banished to the Himalayas?

The Pixar CGI just keeps better and better with visuals that are stunning eye-candy. There are also many inside college jokes geared to those adults who (like me) remembered the frat’s, the hazing, the goofy college clubs, etc. Yes, the screenplay by Daniel Gerson, Robert L. Baird, and Dan Scanlon is a bit formula (which is a shame, considering Pixar should know better), but director Dan Scanlon keeps the action moving so you don’t really notice that much.

**Side note: There’s a Pixar short that precedes the movie called, “The Blue Umbrella”. It sucks.


Five years in development, four story writers, two screenwriters, and two lawsuits later, Pixar rolled out another in a long line of unstoppable CGI animated blockbuster films, lorded over by Pixar’s grandmaster, John Lasseter. And this movie was every bit a delight for children as it was for the adult who took them to see it.

Set in the city of Monstropolis, where the entire population are monsters of every imaginable shape and size, we see our heroes: Mike Wazkowski (Billy Crystal) and his best friend James P. “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman) going to work at “Monsters, Inc”, a factory that supplies the city with power supplied from the screams of children. But only the ‘best of the best’ monsters can work on the “scream floor” and enter the doorways of kids closets (retrieved from the factories seemingly endless supply) and scare kids into screaming their power-giving “fuel”.

In a huge beach of security that causes untold chaos and wide-spread panic, a little 3-year-old human girl simply called “Boo”(voiced by Mary Gibbs, daughter of Pixar story artist, Rob Gibbs) exits a closet door and into the monster world, after getting a crush on Sully (calling him “kitty”). Both Mike and Sully, in a effort to return Boo to her human world via her closet door, return to work with her in disguise, but find out their boss, Mr. Waternoose (James Colburn) and nasty scarer Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi), have concocted a sinister plan to torture kids into screaming with a secret inhuman device (“The Scream Extractor”), which will render all the monster’s jobs obsolete! Horrors!

Plans to thwart Mr. Waternoose go awry and they are quickly banished to…the Himalayas! From they meet banished Abominable Snowman (Pixar stalwart John Ratzenberger) and then it’s a race for Mike and Sully to get back home before that diabolical scream machine can be tested on Boo! And if THAT works, then they have to reveal Mr. Waternoose for the monster…well, I mean, the real bad guy that he is to everyone at the plant! And what is it about Boo and her laughter that makes everything electrical go crazy? Hmmmm…

This movie implemented the latest in cutting-edge computer software programming to show-off the amazing life-like hair, muscle, and reflective surfaces that still looks awesome today. The Pixar formula (“make ’em laugh, then make ’em cry”) is ever present here with a rich story that does all that: you’re laughing one moment, then reaching for a tissue the next. Up until “CARS”, the Pixar storyline never faltered or got formulaic. They were fresh, inventive, clever, family-friendly without any need for toilet humor. They never dumb-downed their writing to their audience and remained true to their heart. Leave the other crap to the other animation studios. Pixar… we salute you!

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