Like any self-respecting film nerd from Generation Y, I grew up on 80’s flicks. I’ve seen Sixteen Candles so many times I can recite it almost exclusively from memory. I loved Pretty In Pink so much that, to this day, my dick gets hard if I see a redheaded chick. And let’s not forget the man who taught me how to be the biggest pimp in the universe: Ferris Bueller.
These films had one dude in common, a guiding Yoda who oversaw some wonderfully impressionable films: John Hughes. I’m not gonna list all the ways this dude ruled, or how he changed Hollywood comedies for the better. Instead, I’ll just tell you to go watch Monsters University because it’s possibly the greatest homage to Hughes ever created.
So Monsters live in an alternate dimension and take jobs scaring children to pay the bills. But you knew that from Monsters Inc. What you didn’t know is that these furry assholes had to go to college to get a job scaring. The little One Eyed Monster from the first film really wants to scare people, but the Big Furry Kitty Monster from the first film doesn’t think One Eye is up for it. So a bunch of 80’s shenanigans ensue as they learn, laugh, and slowly develop a gay-bones relationship with each other.
There’s a lot to love here. The pace is snappy. The jokes are plentiful. And the images are possibly the prettiest Pixar has ever done. The whole experience is a light breezy comedy that harkens back to some of the greatest, cheesiest Hughes films of the 80’s. It’s got the bizarre zaniness of Weird Science. Plus some of the class/social issues of Pretty In Pink. And the buddy relationship from Planes, Trains, And Automobiles. MU, like all good 80’s films, follows its own set logic, where you can get into a specific major through a series of games, where Deans actually walk around campus and intimidate students, where good guys are socially awkward nerds and bad guys are popular jocks, and you know which one is which because they signify it with glasses and Letterman jackets.
In that respect, it’s easy to dismiss Monsters University. It is a very simple, straight forward comedy. And that’s probably why so many critics are beating it up. At this point, Pixar should be beyond something so basic. But, to say that MU is solely a kiddy comedy vastly undersells it’s charms.
There’s a deep core to this flick that underscores just how adept Pixar has become at telling a story. First, with the exception of a couple of monsters, everyone in MU is a complex, relatable character. Like characters in a John Hughes film, Pixar takes a base characteristic and expands upon it until truly memorable character emerge.
Then, just when you think you’re having happy-fun-times, Pixar drops a pretty radical moral on the audience. One that I’ve never seen a film have the balls to tell children. It’s a lot heavier than “follow your dreams” or “be yourself.” ‘
So, to all the haters thinking that Pixar has lost their touch, I beg to differ. They just made one hell of an 80’s film. And, sure, on the surface 80’s films can seem fairly shallow. But, like John Hughes before them, Pixar found a memorable way to present tired tropes.