Monsters of our Better Nature

Billy Crystal as Mike Wazowski in Monsters Univeristy
“Monsters of our Better Nature”
A Review of Monsters University by Nick Olszyk

MPAA Rating, G
USCCB Rating, NA
Reel Rating: Four Reels       

            “Whatever your dream is now, if you don’t achieve it, you haven’t failed. If you do get your dream, you haven’t won. You cannot win your life.” – Stephen Colbert, Northwestern Commencement Address, Class of 2011

            It took an animated film about monsters that depend on humans for electricity to accurately describe the college experience; it is not a world of non-stop parties, binge drinking, and hidden consequences but a place to discover your true identity. College provides people with the maturity of teenagers their first baby steps into adulthood with a football field sized safety net. Pixar’s latest cinematic venture is funny, warm, and a great way to introduce young children to the importance of both passionate dreams and bitter disappointments. God always has our back, even if our back is to the wall.
            Everyone has a childhood moment that in hindsight demonstrates our hidden desire. For the tiny, one eyed Mike Wazowski, it was a field trip to Monsters, Inc where he witnessed firsthand the important duty of scaring children to power Monstropolis. Seven years later, he begins the Scaring program at Monsters University where he meets Jimmy Sullivan, a naturally scary – and hairy – lug from generations of terrifying pedigree. Despite his enthusiasm, it’s not all fun and fangs. Mike is quickly told he is not scaring material and enrolls his fraternity Oozma Kappa in the Scare Games to stay in the program and impress the truly frightening Dean Hardscrabble. This will not be easy. In addition to Sullivan, his fraternity is a ship of fools easily recognizable to any recent college graduate: the unhip older guy, the weird art student, the momma’s boy, and the kid with a split personality, here manifested physically.
            This is familiar territory for any movie about college, but Monsters accepts the genre and goes further than expected. The story could have stopped with the Scare Games, either ending happily with a victory and dreams fulfilled or sadly and wise lessons learned to do better later. Neither happens. The tournament shows Mike that maybe he was never supposed to be a Scarer. Maybe his dream was wrong. It’s a sobering thought that every freshman denies and every graduate knows is true. College is not just about striving to succeed but learning to fail and go down a new path.
Discernment is full of suffering; Jesus promised us crosses. Most college students will change their major and have difficultly finding employment once they are finished. This existential crisis is a necessary part of spiritual maturity; it is a frightening monster of our better nature than all humans must face. It allows people to see the closed doors so they will look for the open windows. Mike has to adjust his dreams. When he finally has the humility to use his skills to help someone else, he discovers his true calling. This happy revelation would have never occurred without the loss of his childhood ambition and the suffering associated. In time like these, it’s important to remember that “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This terrible situation will eventually lead Mike to a lifelong friendship, wonderful career, adoring fiancé, and the discovery that will save his city.

It’s so relieving to see Pixar back on top. For fifteen years, it made masterpiece after masterpiece, never failing impress. Cars 2 and Brave were good, but not Pixar good. Monsters University is a reminder that Pixar is still the best animation studio in the world. This movie will certainly entertain children. It has weird looking characters, hilarious gags, and a beautiful heart. However, it will most resonate with the Millennials. They entered college in an era of boundless opportunity and left in a barren wasteland. This story will give them hope. God is always with every person and will use his dreams to make this world a better place, though usually in a way better than he could have possibly imagined.

This article first appeared in Catholic World Report on June 28th, 2013.