Recently, my family managed to see Despicable Me 2 (Universal) and Monsters University (Disney/Pixar) within a couple of days of each other. It was interesting to see how the films approached children's entertainment from two different directions.
Monsters University is rated G. Despicable Me 2 is rated PG (for rude humor and mild action).
My 11-year-old son loved Despicable Me 2. And, honestly, I laughed through the whole movie. The humor is juvenile (21-fart-gun salute, anyone?) and gets into slapstick (attack-chicken?), but pretty well done. The only frightening part might have been when the Minions were drugged and turned into purple minion zombies, but even they were cute enough that my son wasn't scared.
The plot was fairly shallow, but it allowed Gru's new character to shine. He's called in by a secret organization to fight crime, but tries to decline since it would take time away from his girls. He eventually agrees and becomes an undercover agent.
One good thing about the movie is the role models for girls. Gru's girls are clever and have different-enough personalities that every girl can find someone to identify with. Gru's crime-fighting partner, Lucy, is just as able as Gru—and Gru falls for her because of her skills and her heart, not necessarily her looks.
Monsters University was a completely different animal. For one, it wasn't as funny. For another, it had a strong plot: our heroes have to lead a loser fraternity to win the Greek competition and save the day, learn about themselves, and show the popular kids that teamwork and creative use of talent always wins.
There were a lot of good themes in the movie. Teamwork was lauded, natural talents celebrated, arrogance discouraged—and the meek inherited the earth. But, like I said, it wasn't funny enough to earn my son's undying loyalty, and the humor it did have was pretty broad and cliché-filled.
The Monsters movies are basically buddy flicks for Mike and Sully, so it's no great surprise that the female role models are lacking. The scary, severe Dean is a woman, as is one of the competition announcers. There are two sororities (one goth, one cheerleader-ish) in the competition, and Mike and Sully's fraternity lives in a home owned by the over-protective mother of one of the other members. Neither movie met the Bechdel Test in which two women have at least one conversation not about a man; but then, few movies do.
If you don't mind poop jokes and just want to have a good time, go see Despicable Me 2. If you’re a fan of Pixar movies and want a light-hearted morality tale, go see Monsters University.
Kersley Fitzgerald is a former Air Force officer, former Air Force wife, and current editor of Got Questions’ blog site, Blogos.org. She and her husband adopted JT from Thailand when he was 18 months old. He has spent the ensuing years teaching her more about God than any theology course could.