Fanatic Cinematic: Have no fear, the monsters are here!

Movie columnist Alex Leininger on what you should take away from the "Monsters, Inc." prequel

It’s funny because, until college, most of my friends had never had all that much in common with me.

I’ve always been an English lover and, more importantly, a math hater. And yet, despite my inclination to curl up into a ball and weep at the mere sight of the quadratic formula, my closest friends were usually the kinds of kids to wave their calculators around like some sort of sacred jewel or carnival prize.

Here’s the thing: I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with essentially wanting to wed and have children with a TI-84, but it’s just never been my thing. And that’s the point.

People are good at different things. I was never a math whiz, and my friends were never quite the grammar and spelling stud that I was. Indubitably. To me, differences are what make friendships interesting and worthwhile. Sure, friends tend to laugh at and enjoy similar things. But if you and your friend are the exact same person, you’ll start to wonder: who’s better at being you?

Now, “Monsters University,” the prequel to the brilliant and beloved “Monsters, Inc.,” recently hit theaters. How do you think Mike Wazowski, Sulley and Randall came to be the way they are?

It’s simple. Sulley and Randall are both scary, constantly competing for the title of “top scarer,” and they hate each other. Mike, as funny as he is, poses no threat to either of the others’ hopes for the scaring title, and it's Mike and Sulley’s differences that make them such a good pair.

Of course, there’s a much better story behind all of that. “Monsters University” explains that story, taking place far before the times of “Monsters, Inc.”

In “Monsters University,” little Mike Wazowski wants desperately to be a scarer. He looks up to the formidably frightening “star scarers” like human children look up to basketball stars. Reading all of the books and studying all of the techniques, he eventually finds his way into the most prestigious scaring school of all, Monsters University. After a few weeks of classes, he finds himself to be the best student, despite the superior talents of many of his peers, including a young and arrogant Sulley.

Getting the best grades isn’t good enough for Mike, though. He wants to prove to everyone that has doubted him before that he is, in fact, scary. To do this, he joins the annual scare competition with his new fraternity brothers, the misfits of Oozma Kappa. In a hilarious and intense series of challenges, the outcasts prove to be more than just OK. But do they have what it takes to win it all?

I won’t give too much away, but the truth of the situation is that hard work only takes you so far if you’re not built for the game. I always loved watching gargantuan human beings dunk basketballs growing up, but I grew up to be 5-foot-11-inches and very moderately athletic. Now, no matter how much I train or practice, I will never have what it takes to be like Mike (Jordan, that is). And Mike Wazowski, a little green ball with horns, will never be able to produce blood-curdling screams at the same rate as a giant lion/bear hybrid. It’s not meant to be.

Now, before you start crying because you’re bad at things like me, think about it for a second. There’s no way you’re terrible at everything! You just have to find what you’re good at. Take this for example: If I challenged Shaquille O’Neal to a limbo tournament, I can almost guarantee that I would be the victor.

“But, Alex,” says the innocent bystander, “Shaq didn’t ask to be that tall!”

Well, you know what? I didn’t ASK to be an average college student doing homework instead of throwing it down on the ball court, OK? All that you can do is make the best of what you’re given and be proud of it, sir/madam.

Now that I’m older, the thing I look for most in children’s movies is the message, and the message in “Monsters University” is simple and beautiful: You can’t be a superstar at anything, but you can be a superstar at something.

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