It's been a dozen years since Mike and Sully scared up some big laughs in Pixar's "Monsters, Inc."
The 2001 film was so successful that a sequel seemed logical, but it was delayed while writers tried to find the scariest/funniest way to get the pair back on the big screen.
Their solution is "Monsters University," a story that takes the pair back to where they met — in college. Through a monstrous version of "Revenge of the Nerds," Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) go from adversaries to best buds.
This prequel approach is sweet, colorful and generally funny, but it lacks the emotional tug of the original film. It was far more fun, touching and interesting to watch Mike and Sully trying to keep baby Boo from harm than it is to watch them find their place on campus.
"Monsters University" has plenty of strengths.
Crystal and Goodman continue to be BMOCs (Big Mouths on Campus) with their voice work. The energetic attitude Crystal brings to the voice of Mike is a nice contrast to the more lumbering tones used by Goodman. And, they are joined by several other strong voice performances from Steve Buscemi reprising his work as the unsavory Randy to the wonderfully condescending vocals of Nathan Fillion as the head of the university's top fraternity.
Mike and Sully's socially awkward fraternity brothers — featuring the voices of Charlie Day, Joel Murray, Sean Hayes and Dave Foley — are quirky enough they could have their own movie or TV series.
The film explodes with monsters, a benefit of the long delay. "Monsters, Inc." had a limited number of creatures because that's all the computers could handle. Now, the campus is loaded with hundreds of creatures, all very different. Even the backgrounds have a richer and deeper tone.
If only the story had just a little more heart. Robert L. Baird's script focuses on Mike's efforts to be accepted. While there are touching moments, it just doesn't have that tug of emotion that stays with a viewer long after the last monster has left the building.
This movie's loaded with enough action and animated fun that it will keep young viewers amused. Disappointing is the fact that after so many years, the story doesn't live up to the technology.
"Monsters University," rated G. Stars the voices of Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Directed by Dan Scanlon. Running time: 110 minutes. Grade: B-
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.