When it comes to study, Sulley isn't interested. The only class that matters to Mike is the one that will put him on track for the prized scare degree. He wants to be one of those guys who walks through the door to the human world and into kids' dreams. The one who can put the scare meter into the red zone.

The action turns on MU's fabled Scare Games — like the Hunger Games, except no one dies or worries about dinner. Who will win: the big monsters on campus or the little guys?

In addition to the predictability of that scenario, the college pranks — where the film could have had some major fun — lack much invention. A stolen mascot? Really? Yes, it's a monster, but then aren't they all?

Ultimately, the movie is about friendships and loyalties. All are tested in the usual ways. The buddy bonding that should be tugging the heartstrings right about now doesn't have much pull. And the "rah, rah" marching band music is downright irritating — and dated.

That sour note is surprising in a genre that has distinguished itself for showcasing great tunes. More confounding, the brilliant Randy Newman composed the score and conducted. Maybe he had a bad day.

betsy.sharkey@latimes.com

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'Monsters University'

MPAA rating: G

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Playing: In general release