Being that this film is a prequel, seeing Monsters, Inc. (2001)
is not a requisite to seeing this one. Truth be told, I didn't see the
prior, Pixar hit, but I wonder if I did, whether or not I would have the
same problem with that original as I do with this follow-up. Much like Ratatouille (2007), another Pixar film that didn't sit right with me, I fundamentally disagree with this movie's premise.
The premise is that there are monsters who live in another dimension that like The Adjustment Bureau (2011) can travel to our human world via special doors. The purpose of these monsters is to sneak into the bedrooms of little children and scare them. That's like making a movie about Freddie Krueger where Freddie is the protagonist and we follow along as he learns how to do what he does, but only it's done as a comedy aimed at being appealing to families.
Thanks to Pixar's animation and Disney's marketing machine, most if not all the characters here are perceived as cute and cuddly toys that children could buy at the mall or in the gift shop at Disneyland. We're meant to love them. Yes, their character goals are to scare children, but even the ugliest of the ugly here doesn't come close to the creatures in Rango (2011). Thus, they're never scary.
Because we see these monsters doing comedic things like pratfalls, it was difficult for me to see them as scary. The only truly scary character is Hardscrabble, voiced by Helen Mirren, and she's intimidating because she never at any point does or says anything goofy.
The characters attend college, so of course we go through the litany of clichés associated with campus life. Even a fraternity competition feels hackneyed and not that exciting. The competition actually becomes the thrust of the narrative. As such, it makes the majority of this movie rather boring.
Again, because the goal of the competition is to train monsters to scare children, I at no point could root for these characters. I know these issues are most likely addressed in the original film, but I simply couldn't go with it here.
At its heart, the movie, written by Dan Scanlon, Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird, teaches the notion that through hard work, determination and study, someone, even a monster like Mike Wazowski, voiced by Billy Crystal, can achieve a dream, despite the world being against you. It also teaches that someone like James "Sulley" Sullivan, voiced by John Goodman, can't rely on nepotism or his looks to get by.
Director Dan Scanlon has assisted in the writing and production of other Pixar and Disney films like Cars (2006) and Meet the Robinsons (2007), but this appears to be his first feature-length animation where he's at the helm. What this movie lacked that other movies he's worked is an action set-piece.
There's a brief chase and a brief sequence where Mike and Sulley are trapped in a cabin, but that's it. Without a big action set-piece, which is common for a Pixar or Disney movie, it makes for one of the most dull that either company has ever put out.
One Star out of Five.
Rated G for all audiences.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 mins.