Why Monsters University Is Better Than Monsters, Inc.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 7.236% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

This is a truly stupid headline, as there’s no objective criteria to determine what makes a movie “better.”  But I like Monsters University better than Monsters, Inc. by a long shot, mainly because the lessons in Monsters University aren’t ones we traditionally see in kids’ films.
The thing is, Monsters Inc. is going to resonate more with a lot of people, because at its core Monsters Inc. is about what it means to be a parent – and the heartbreaking responsibilities (and rewards!) you take on when you decide to do the right thing for a child.  If you’ve got a kid, that’s guaranteed to tug on the old heartstrings.  But as an artist, I loved Monsters University because it’s about failure.  And hard truths.  And unhappy endings that become happy.
Which is to say:
1)  I love that Mike doesn’t get what he wants.  Too many kids’ movies tell you to “follow your dreams!” as though dreams are all attainable through hard work and stick-to-it-iveness.  But the ugly truth is that some people just aren’t right for what they wanna be.  Mike?  Isn’t particularly scary, and never will be.  Mike works harder than anybody, but sometimes sheer labor isn’t enough to get past a lack of inner talent.
Does that mean that Mike’s useless?  No.  All the skills he learned along the way get repurposed, repackaged, and ultimately rewarded.  And that’s a valuable lesson for kids; you can, and should, strive to be the best – but you might not make it.  That’s not a reason to give up; it’s a reason to fight harder.  The journey will teach you things.
Get in there, ya little green guy.
2)  I love that it’s a blue-collar film.  At the end – SPOILER ALERT – they don’t actually make it.  So how do they get onto the scare floor by the beginning of the next film?
They work from the ground up.
Humble beginnings, man.  They’re jazzed, they’re motivated, and they’re best friends, and they start from the mail room and refuse to stop.  This movie is not the end of their journey, but the beginning of when they really started.  It’s a subtle message for kids, but I really love the concept that they spent this whole movie learning how to work – and after that enlightenment comes a crapload of sweat and toil and promise before you get to your goal.
If Mike and Sully put in their 10,000 hours, Monsters University is, like, the first 250.  And I adore that the message is, “Work harder.  This isn’t magic, kids.”

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