But that’s not college — that’s high school.
Whatever it is, Monsters University, which opens Friday, certainly isn’t the overachiever that its predecessor was. While not on the failure level of, say, Cars 2, this disappointing effort is mildly redeemed by an involving third act — at just about the time pint-sized viewers are apt to be restless.
A prequel to the earlier flick, University provides the story of how one-eyed greenie Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal, Parental Guidance) and the big, blue and furry James P. Sullivan (John Goodman, The Hangover Part III) became unlikely pals and coworkers. They come to Monsters U. to strengthen their scariness — their world is powered by eliciting screams from human kids, you might recall — but both face different challenges.
Despite Mike’s gung-ho optimism, the little guy just isn’t frightening. And Sully, for all his fearsomeness, lacks discipline and humility. They must prove themselves under the watchful glare of Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren, Hitchcock).
Director Dan Scanlon, in his animated feature-length debut, winds up crafting a thoughtful, character-driven final reel, but the poignancy comes after an overly broad, lead-footed hour. It has its charms — the 3-D animation is first-rate and there’s an embarrassment of voice-talent riches, with a special nod to Saturday Night Live’s Bobby Moynihan as a middle-aged student — but much of Monsters University feels like remedial-class Pixar. —Phil Bacharach