REVIEW: ‘Monsters at Work’ Is a Continuation Series That Works

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Monsters At Work - But Why Tho

Monsters at Work is a follow-up series to the 2001 Pixar classic Monsters, Inc. Taking place just after the events of the movie, top of his class scarer Tyler Tuskmon (Ben Feldman) has just graduated into a Monsters Incorporated that is switching from scare power to laugh power for good that very day. With his skills basically useless now, he’s placed in the Monsters Inc. Facilities Team (MIFT), an eclectic crew he wants no part of, despite Fritz (Henry Winkler), Val (Mindy Kaling), Cutter (Alanna Ubach), and very much not Duncan (Lucas Neff) welcoming him to their team. Plus, he’s working under new bosses Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman).

Follow-ups to beloved stories more than a decade later are a huge risk. They can sully the original’s good name, but they just might bring out the best while delivering something new and independently worthwhile. Monsters at Work is certainly the latter. While the season begins right where the movie left off and may be a tad confusing for anybody who hasn’t seen it or forgets what happened, it’s perfectly enjoyable for anybody.

The show is packed full of good laughs, touching moments, and homages to classic movies. From episode to episode, there’s a connective thread where Tylor is striving to become a jokester while struggling with his placement in MIFT and whether he feels like he belongs there or on the laugh floor. But each episode also stands strongly on its own with its wacky situations. While there’s plenty of great references to Monsters, Inc. and even Monsters University, they are never overpowering; they are just good references. The balance between fleshing out the show’s new characters and including its classic characters like Mike and Sully is also nice. It’s good to have the old favorites around to keep the show grounded in what we already love about Monsters, Inc. while making it something new for a new generation.

For as crisp and beautiful as ever as the animation is, the character design for Tylor, the main character, feels a tad lackluster. He’s not a bad design, just a bit underwhelming. Of all the show’s many great themes, none have to do with being a nobody or indistinguishable. So this is a bit of a shame to me, just given how creative so many of the other monsters’ designs feel. But the rest of the MIFT crew is great, in both design and character. Like Tylor himself, you may start off feeling like they’re a bit odd, but by the end, you’ll grow to love them just as much as he does.

My favorite part about the show is what it’s actually about: that it’s okay if your dreams end up taking a different shape than you expected. Tylor wants to be the greatest scarer, looking up to Sully as a kid and wanting to be just like him. So when Monsters Inc. shifts from scare power to laugh power, he’s put off but not deterred. He’ll just have to be the greatest jokester instead. Only, he’s pretty un-funny. At least, in the way he tries to be funny.

Over the season, it’s a bit grating how hard he keeps trying to be funny only to mess something up pretty badly, fix it, admit what he did was wrong, and get off the hook for it. It’s actually a somewhat frustrating message to me because even though his honesty is good in the moment of defeat, the fact that he never learns from it and keeps doing the wrong thing with no consequences for it isn’t really a good way to model chasing your dreams. But what is a good model is at least the way the season ultimately ends, with Tylor having to learn that there’s more than one way to reach your goals. And really, that made up for the rest of it for me.

Monsters at Work is a great way to continue a beloved movie. I appreciate its balance between old and new characters, never harping too hard on old jokes and leaving plenty of room to be its own story with its own message. The show looks great, the music is great, the characters grow hard on you, and I hope this season won’t be the last.

Monsters at Work is available now on Disney+.

Monsters at Work
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Monsters at Work is a great way to continue a beloved movie. I appreciate its balance between old and new characters, never harping too hard on old jokes and leaving plenty of room to be its own story with its own message. The show looks great, the music is great, the characters grow hard on you, and I hope this season won’t be the last.