By Matt Singer | Criticwire June 10, 2013 at 11:37AM
"Monsters University" doesn't begin its summer session until June 21st, but those seeking early enrollment can now read the first batch of reviews, which hit the web earlier today. Pixar fans hoping for a return to form by the popular animation studio may want to lower their expectations, at least a little. A few of the reviews below do call "Monsters University" -- the prequel to 2001's beloved "Monsters Inc." -- a great family film and even an improvement on the original, but most are filled with more muted praise. "It's funny, but...," "It's cute, but...," "It's entertaining, but..." -- with the buts followed by some variation on "It's not as good as the original" or "It's not up to PIxar's old standards." Some are even more negative than that.
The film doesn't open for almost two weeks so there's still time for the overall critical consensus to shift. But for now, here's the first dozen or so reviews for "Monsters University:"
"A bright, breezy, funny and beautifully presented film."
"The best Pixar films do this -- they offer a take on the real world that is skewed only lightly, so the most ordinary places – the toy box, the kitchen, the fish bowl -- become ripe for adventure. Monsters University, like 'Cars,' 'Cars 2' and 'Brave' before it, suffers from existing in a world that's too far removed from the jeopardy of our own world."
"This zippy, bright-minded prequel scarcely needed to exist, yet makes for perfectly agreeable entertainment now that it does."
"Where they could've coasted on a child-friendly, merchandise-boosting but ultimately reductive return to the universe of fur and fangs, Pixar has instead followed the 'Toy Story' trilogy by improving on perfection. 'Monsters University' is faultless fun."
"May not be quite as satisfying as the masterpiece that was 'Monsters Inc.,' but it's still an extraordinarily entertaining piece of work. "
"Sweet and entertaining and almost immediately forgettable, lacking the character intricacies and wit and poignancy offered by the 'Toy Story' movies and 'Up' and 'The Incredibles' and the first half of 'WALL-E.'"
"Throw in some really enjoyable set-pieces, great cameos and call-forwards and an honest beating heart and 'Monsters University' graduates with distinction in a less-than-stellar year of animation."
"As a whole, the ordeal feels strangely tame, and it's especially disconcerting to watch the vibrant world already fully realized in 'Monsters Inc.' persist in a less daring context."
"The third sub-par film in a row from Pixar, after 'Cars 2' and 'Brave,' suggesting that the brain trust in Emeryville has lost a bit of its edge."
"Does it feel as vital as 'WALL-E' or 'Up?' Perhaps not, but that’s an awfully high yardstick to measure against. Put it like this: if Pixar was going to make another film in the 'Monsters Inc.' world, it's hard to see how they could have bettered this."
"Has a huge heart and is, without a doubt, 100% classic Pixar. Fast, fun and somehow managing to improve on the original film with first class honours, this is visually stunning, crammed with belly laughs and it is impossible not to love every wonderful second of it."