Origin stories are all the rage. Whether they explore the backstories of men in tights like Superman or sociopaths like Norman Bates, these snapshots offer glimpses of our favorite characters before they were stars. Kids, with their endless string of whys, aren’t immune to that kind of curiosity. So it makes sense that Pixar would get into the act with a prequel to its 2001 things-that-go-bump-in-the-night hit, Monsters, Inc.
When we met the motormouthed, one-eyed cue ball Mike (Billy Crystal) and the gentle-giant fur ball Sully (John Goodman), they were just a pair of wisecracking beasties who scared the bejesus out of human kids, turning their bed-wetting nightmare screams into energy. Now, in the giddy Monsters University, we see how they first crossed paths at college. Mike is a book-smart runt who isn’t very scary. And Sully is a slacker who thinks his terrifying roar is enough to skate to the top of the class. But after the slithering dean (a deliciously sinister Helen Mirren) boots them from the elite scarer program, they join forces to compete in the Greek Scare Games for a second chance. Anyone who’s seen 1984’s Revenge of the Nerds knows what happens next: a series of Olympic-style events where the zeroes become heroes. That doesn’t make the journey any less hilarious or heartwarming. Speaking of second chances, Monsters University is exactly the rebound Pixar needed after 2011’s Cars 2 left some wondering if the studio had lost its magic. The delightful story of When Mike Met Sully puts those concerns to rest. A-