Making the Grades
Mike Wazowski (voice by Billy Crystal) and James P. Sullivan (voice by John Goodman) weren’t always the Scare Floor Dream Team at the Monsters, Inc. power company. In fact there was a time when they could hardly stand each other.
In this prequel to the 2001 animation Monsters, Inc., Sulley and Mike are among the freshman class entering the Scare program on the hallowed campus at Monsters University. For Mike, it’s a lifetime dream come true. For Sulley, it’s the fulfillment of family expectations. Unfortunately for both of them, it’s a big disappointment when they are ousted from the program after accidentally destroying a cherished memento belonging to the school’s Dean Hardscrabble (voice by Helen Mirren). The only way to get back in is to prove themselves at the upcoming Scare Games. But to do so they need to be part of a campus fraternity. And the only one still taking applicants is the OK House.
The OK frat members are a sorry lot. Don (voice of Joel Murray) is a mature student who came back to college after being downsized from his sales job. Art (voice of Charlie Day) is a free spirited monster with a questionable past. The brothers Terry and Terri (voices of Dave Foley and Sean Hayes) share one body for their two heads and Squishy (voice of Peter Sohn) is the chubby, multi-eyed monster whose mother owns and runs their frat house. They are the least athletically endowed monsters on campus. But although neither Mike nor Sulley is happy about having to team up with these outcasts or share a room in their new frat house, both are bent on getting back in the school’s prized program.
While the Scare Games resemble a reality-TV episode, the story focuses less on the actual competitions and more on the preparations that happen between events. This mishmash of monsters learns to work together, to appreciate and use their individual talents and to take responsibility for their mistakes and choices. Most of all, Sulley and Mike overcome their aversion to one another and begin a lifelong friendship that follows them into the future.
Like the first movie that depicted children’s screams as a power source for the city, Monster University probably isn’t for the very youngest of audience members. There are still plenty of moments of peril and scenes where the scary creatures sneak into a simulated bedroom and elicit screams from a sleeping child. And like some college students, these monsters get involved in brief illegal activities that have them hightailing it from the law.
Yet for older children and their parents, this animated adventure blends a colorful cast of characters and some valuable life lessons in a delightful storyline about individual worth and a budding friendship. Living up to the old adage that opposites attract, the big blue beast and his little green friend demonstrate that the best things in life often come in pairs.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Monsters University.
Mike discovers that dreams don’t always come true, even if you really want it and are willing to work hard. How does he adjust his expectations in life and find a new way to achieve his goals? How does he deal with disappointment?
Mike is repeatedly told as a child and as a college student that he “doesn’t belong.” Although this negative comment is very hurtful, how does Mike choose to respond to it? How does he use it to overcome challenges and develop a resilient and optimistic outlook? How can parents help their children deal with similar negative comments from peers?
What consequences does Sully face his choices? Does a person’s appearance or outward bravado sometimes misrepresent how he or she feels inside?
What does the OK team learn about each other’s strengths? What is each member able to contribute? How do their actions influence the Scare program’s director?