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Monsters University

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Monsters University Movie Poster Image
Monsters Inc. prequel is a fun college comedy for all ages.
  • G
  • 2013
  • 110 minutes
Parents recommendPopular with kids

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 39 reviews

Kids say

age 5+
Based on 111 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

This isn't an educational movie, but kids will learn a bit about the college experience (albeit a fictional one with monsters), the Greek system, and dorm life.

Positive Messages

Like the original, the prequel stresses the importance of friendship, perseverance, and teamwork. The relationship between Sulley and Mike proves that once you get past superficial differences, others might have more in common with you than you first thought. Empathy is a major theme. The story also teaches that you shouldn't let others dictate whether you're good at something or not. If you're willing to work hard and team up with other people, you can accomplish almost anything.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mike works and studies hard while he's at the university, even though many of his classmates rely on their physical attributes. Sulley transforms from a procrastinator who doesn't study to a disciplined worker thanks to Mike's guidance. Sulley makes a mistake but owns up to it and faces the consequences.

Violence & Scariness

Not really violence, just "scares" that include watching or listening to monsters scare real or simulated children. Several of the monsters have to practice various forms of scaring, and the flying dean is a frightening monster. In one scene, Mike and Sulley must frighten human adults. Mild bullying and pranks among the fraternities and sororities, including a pledging "paddling" scene that's briefly scary but turns comical.

Sexy Stuff

Don and Ms. Squibbles show an interest in each other and eventually announce that they're engaged. They kiss once.


Mild insults, mostly toward Mike Wazowski -- i.e. "jerk," "lame," "failure," "you don't belong here," etc.


While there are no product placements in the movie, as part of the Disney empire, the Pixar movies have a ton of advertising, licensed merchandise, and products available, including stuffed plushes, board/video games, apparel, accessories, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some mild college partying scenes, in which characters are seen holding red party cups (the contents of which aren't commented on) and playing a version of a well-known drinking game.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Monsters University -- a prequel to Pixar's hit 2001 comedy Monsters, Inc. -- tells the story of how Mike (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) met in college. This animated comedy has fewer frightening antagonists than the original, but it does include several scenes of monsters trying to scare simulated (or in a couple of cases real) kids. The flying Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) is a scary sight, and there's some mild bullying and pranks from the popular fraternities and sororities toward Oozma Kappa (Mike and Sulley's frat of misfits). Some scenes imply a little bit of college "partying" (characters hold red party cups, the contents of which aren't discussed), and there's one kiss. Fans of the original comedy will recognize certain characters and themes, which ultimately emphasize friendship, teamwork, and perseverance to overcome your fears.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byriorhu July 13, 2013

Hate this movie, what it did to my 4 year old kid!

I hate this movie, I mean what it did to my 4 year old kid. He wasn´t afraid of darkness, even he used to like some scary stuff but not in his room while he is... Continue reading
Parent of a 1 and 4 year old Written byResearchMom42 July 6, 2013

Scarier than the first one. Be sure your kid can handle it.

Scare Level. I am amazed people think this movie is okay for young kids. Even during the movie, we heard little kids telling their moms they wanted to leave and... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bySean Broucek June 20, 2013

Great. Pure Great.

Parents, this clever and fun prequel to the Pixar classic is very entertaining, but adds some more mature content to the mix. There is some scary images, much m... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old June 21, 2013

Great Film

This film is really good. It has only clean humor and really good graphics. There is a lot of name calling, though, like jerk, idiot, and you don't belon... Continue reading

What's the story?

In this prequel to Monsters, Inc., a young Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) first idolizes professional scarers during an elementary school field trip to the Monsters, Inc. factory, where a top scarer encourages the kids to attend his alma mater, MONSTERS UNIVERSITY, and bestows on little Mike an MU cap. Years later, Mike has finally arrived at MU, ready to prove that, despite his unintimidating looks, he can be a scarer, too. He and his roommate, Randall (Steve Buscemi), end up in a class that's interrupted by an imposing young monster, James P. Sullivan, aka Sulley (John Goodman). Cocky "natural" scarer Sulley rubs hardworking MIke the wrong way, and, on the day of their final exam, the strict Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren) throws them out of the scarer program. But the annual Greek Scare Games offers the two flunkies one last chance to rejoin the program, if they can somehow lead their newfound fraternity of misfits, Oozma Kappa (OK), to victory.

Is it any good?

The Pixar crew has lovingly refashioned the R-rated fraternity comedy into a G-rated adventure that kindergarteners, frat brothers, and tired parents can all enjoy equally and without reservation. Monsters University is a clever mix. It draws from the best (and cleanest) of college comedies like Revenge of the Nerds, Animal House, Old School, and basically any movie in which a band of misfits rallies together and emerges victorious against all odds. As in RevengeMonsters' much-ridiculed OK fraternity includes a hilarious group of misfits: mama's boy Squishy (Peter Sohn), two-headed Terry (Dave Foley) and Terri (Sean Hayes), mustachioed "mature" student Don (Joel Murray), and U-limbed Art (Charlie Day). Each is adorably memorable for their earnest enthusiasm and their complete lack of guile (although Art is, surprisingly, an ex-con).

The story arc is simple and formulaic, but that's fine. Most movies are derivative, so it's just a matter of how well the filmmakers put their own spin on a tried and true story. Pixar purists may quibble that the studio is becoming more mainstream and losing its artistic edge. But that doesn't mean that Monsters University isn't a beautifully animated comedy filled with nuanced jokes and perfect characterization. Watching Mike and Sulley go from frenemies to friends isn't a revolutionary as watching them save Boo, but Pixar still deserves an A for making audiences laugh and love these characters all over again.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether Monsters University lives up to your expectations. Do you wish it had been a sequel instead? Which do you usually prefer -- sequels or prequels?

  • How does Monsters University depict the college experience? Parents, talk to your kids about which aspects of university life are realistic.

  • For those who've seen the first movie, what does the prequel explain about the friendship between Mike and Sulley or the way Randall dislikes them? What else do you learn?

  • The movie is about monsters, but it's not intended to be scary. Do you think that combination works well for young kids?

  • How do the characters in Monsters University demonstrate empathy, perseverance, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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