Everybody loves Mike and Sully, the scaresome monster team from Monsters, Inc. So, maybe they’ll be happy to see them again as college students in Monsters University. So happy that they won’t mind the clichéd plot — lovable band of misfits in loser frat must rally to beat arrogant jerks in various feats of skill. And maybe they won’t mind the shoehorning of Disney-style affirmation-speak: “I just wanted to be special.” “Stop being a Sullivan, and be you!” (Neither makes sense: Mike doesn’t want to be special, he wants to be scary. And Sullivan doesn’t want to be something other than a Sullivan, he wants to live up to his illustrious name.)
The story’s finest moment comes in its final minutes, when it finally refuses to be completely, utterly conventional and expected. But even then, it never attains to inspired. You may very well chuckle. But you almost certainly won’t care.
With Monsters University, Pixar has a genuine failure on its hands. I only wish that meant it would have a flop on its ledger. A flop might call for some soul-searching; or, rather, it might call Pixar to go searching for its soul.