Monsters University Voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren. Directed by Dan Scanlon. Rated G. Opens Friday.
Pixar’s track record with sequels has been a bit mixed so far. The second and third Toy Story movies were excellent, but Cars 2 was a lame follow-up to one of the studio’s weakest originals. Monsters University falls somewhere in the middle: It’s not as wonderful as any of the Toy Story movies (not that the 2001 original, Monsters, Inc., meets those standards, either), but it’s also not a cynical misfire like Cars 2. It’s a mostly pleasant if familiar and predictable story, set at a time when Monsters, Inc. main characters Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) were college rivals.
The studious Mike and the boisterous Sully don’t get along at first, but soon they have to team up to participate in the university’s intramural Scare Games, with the future of their positions in the scaring program at stake. Once that happens, Monsters University turns into an animated, kid-friendly version of Revenge of the Nerds, with Mike and Sully as members of the campus’ uncoolest fraternity.
There aren’t any surprises in the plot, but, as usual for a Pixar production, the details are fantastic, from the clever twists on college life (which owe more than a little to the world of Hogwarts from the Harry Potter movies) to the various colorful background characters. There are enough laughs for adults and enough lessons on teamwork and self-confidence for kids, although the ending drags a bit. Monsters University will probably turn out to be the best animated movie of the summer, but by Pixar standards, it’s strictly mediocre.