Monsters University

This is another movie I wasn’t that excited about, but I wanted to see a movie on Sunday, and I liked the sound of this one better than any of the alternatives. I liked Monsters, Inc. all right, but it’s not one of my Pixar favorites. I’ve seen it maybe twice and have felt no great desire to own a copy on DVD.

This one, I liked a lot better. It was what one expects from a Pixar movie–funny, with more than enough smart jokes to keep grown-ups happy, and appropriately heartwarming at the same time. The animation just keeps getting better and better between movies. It was fun to learn how Mike and Sully got to be friends, and to watch their relationship go from bitter rivals to the best of friends. It still followed the doofy buddies in college comedy in formula, which means nothing in the plot was all that surprising, if still amusing.

This next bit is about the overall message of the film and is thus SPOILER-Y.

What I found most interesting about the movie was the message, however. It wasn’t the standard “if you can dream it, you can be it.” Which always does seem like a heartwarming, nice message until you consider that sometimes people are just physically or mentally not capable of achieving whatever their big dream happens to be; for example, some people just are not physically set up to be ballet dancers or Olympic athletes. And so on.

So instead, the message became more about Mike finding what he was truly good at and truly loved doing, and doing that even though it was a different dream than the one he started with. He starts out wanting to be a Scarer, but through the course of the movie he displays again and again that he’s an amazing coach, and that he is simply not scary at all. So instead, at the end he and Sully achieve their dream job (after being expelled from school) by joining Monsters, Inc as entry-level employees and excelling at everything they do, thus working their way up the ladder.

This isn’t the normal course for kid’s movies.

Also, when Sully comes clean about cheating, he (and Mike) get expelled. Things only work out for the boys after that dishonesty because they change tracks and start over. I also don’t feel like this is the most common message.

There’s a lot about this kind of message that I actually like. Because it is a hard but true thing that you can’t necessarily be anything you dream to be. Happiness tends to be finding what you like doing and what you’re good at and doing that. And there is a lot to be said for the idea of rising through the ranks through hard work; on the other hand, there’s the never ending boot straps narrative that isn’t really true.

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