This is something I’ve wanted to write about for some time now, as it’s a very clear comparison that not many people have made. At least, from what I can tell. But when I’ve told people this, I’ve been mocked and ridiculed. People think that I’m not serious just because I’m comparing two seemingly different movies. But I never joke when discussing a serious topic like film analysis. By the end of this piece I plan to prove to you that these two films contain not just similarities in character, plot, and story structure, but the same basic message as well. Also after I started writing this I found some people who made the same point that I’m making here, but none are as in-depth, so fight me. I’m still clever.
For those of you unfamiliar with the movies Pitch Perfect and Monsters University, I will be providing a brief and general synopsis of each film with some spoilers below. For those of you who haven’t seen these movies and don’t want them spoiled, please contact me and tell me what compelled you to read this in the first place.
Pitch Perfect is a movie about Beca, a young college student who is pressured into joining a quirky campus acapella group(The Barden Bellas) and gets into trouble with the dictatorial leader, Aubrey, when she attempts to switch things up. Hijinks and romance abound while the Bellas face off against the campus’ male acapella group(The Treblemakers) in various competitions. Also there’s a scene where Aubrey vomits everywhere. And there’s a song in this where cups are used as percussion and everyone sang it for months after the movie came out and it was very annoying. It’s fine. It’s not for me. But it is much less annoying than Glee.
Monsters University is about a small green one-eyed monster named Mike Wazowski and his attempts to become a professional scarer at the eponymous school. Along the way he forms a begrudging friendship with James Sullivan, a tall, blue and purple polka-dotted furry monster. An accident involving a prized possession of the Dean’s forces the two young monsters to join forces with a ragtag group of oddball creatures in a school-wide scaring competition. It’s a very weird movie and somehow makes less sense than Monsters Incorporated, but it’s also an okay movie.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “John, you just wrote unnecessary synopses for these films instead of copying and pasting from IMDb and you’ve already proved that you’re wrong! One of these movies is about a group of acapella singers and the other is about a bunch of monsters! These films couldn’t be any more different if they triiiIIIiiiIIIiiied!” Well, that’s where you’re wrong. Let’s look at the facts:
Actually, no. Facts are boring. Let’s look at the setting and conflict instead.
The Setting and Conflict
The most obvious similarity to be found in these two beloved movies is that they both take place at a college. Both movies are set in weird alternate realities, one where monsters exist, and one where people care a lot about acapella. Both movies are about a competition between two groups(The Barden Bellas V The Treblemakers/Oozma Kappa V Roar Gamma Roar) containing multiple trials or multiple concerts. Both of the heroic groups conquer the meaner groups in the end, although Sully does this by cheating. Both competitions get out of hand at some point, causing the rivalries to become more personal. And both movies are prequels. Monsters University being a prequel to Monsters Incorporated, and Pitch Perfect being a prequel to Pitch Perfect 2.
Another eerie comparison lies between the characters of the film. Particularly Beca(Anna Kendrick) and Mike Wazowski(Billy Crystal). Both characters are outsiders and underdogs, trying to find their voice in the world and searching for a purpose. They both find a family where they least expect it, and find happiness doing a thing they didn’t think they’d enjoy. For Beca, that’s singing in an acapella group, and for Mike, it’s being a scaring assistant for his best friend. The main difference between the two is that Mike actively pursues a career in scaring while Beca stumbles somewhat reluctantly into the world of acapella. And of course, both Mike and Beca are small green one-eyed monsters. Let’s not forget that.
Sully and Aubrey also have some similarities between them. Sully is a leader and inspiration to fellow students because of the reputation of his father. Aubrey is a leader due to her many years in the group. Due to Sully’s innate scariness, he is reluctant to try new tactics and find new ways to scare. After a previous incident where Aubrey vomited on stage, she has been too scared to change the songs her group sings because it gives her a sense of control she lost in her accident. Because Sully is afraid to let his dad down and Aubrey doesn’t want to embarrass herself again, both are allowing their pasts to dictate their future by getting stuck in the old ways.
And of course, these underdog stories wouldn’t be complete without a wacky crew! And some antagonists as well. The antagonists in both movies are just gangs of random mean people. They’re really intended as more of an obstacle than anything that really contributes to the story in some major way. The main difference is that the Treblemakers have Ben Platt and Roar Gamma Roar have Steve Buscemi as a chameleon. So yeah.
And the wacky crews are just wacky crews. The Barden Bellas consist of Beca, Aubrey, Chloe, Fat Amy, Cynthia, Lilly, and a few other people. I think one of them is quiet and one of them is sassy or something? I know that one of them vomits and I think the quiet one does snow angels in the vomit. I’m not gonna take the time to find every name, especially when the Monsters University characters are way better. None of them seem to like each other or work well together but then they’re the best at singing!
The monsters of Oozma Kappa are Mike, Sully, Squishy, Don, Terry, Terri, and Art. None of the monsters of Oozma Kappa are that scary. Oh no! How will they become scarers?!? By finding the scariness within. Squishy is squishy and he has five eyes. Terry and Terri have two heads. Art is a weird long pipe cleaner looking thing. And Don Carlton is the best. He’s a middle-aged monster that can suction to things and used to work in textiles. He’s my favorite character. Anyway they find a way to work together and be scary and everyone is happy. Both groups are full of misfits who learn to love each other, even though Monsters University is a prequel, and literally none of their frat members are in the sequel.
Both Pitch Perfect and Monsters University are about finding your voice. Literally. Get it? Because they sing in Pitch Perfect and in Monsters University they usually scream at the kids…? Beca begins the movie reluctant to be a part of college, not wanting to join a big group and let loose. But then she realizes how much she enjoys singing in a group and realizes that it actually makes her happy. She spends so much time hating her dad for forcing her to go to college until she discovers it was the best thing for her.
Mike spends his whole life wanting to be a scarer despite everyone telling him he could never be one. He wants to prove everyone wrong so badly that he doesn’t realize that it might just not be something he can do. And that’s okay. But Mike ends up making a friend and realizing that he can live out his dream, just not in the way that he expected.
Both movies are saying the same basic thing, they just do it different ways. Beca discovers her passion through success and finds a new family. Mike finds a new family while discovering a new way to do what he wants to do. There’s always a place for you in this world. And that’s what these perfectly adequate movies are about. This concludes my thoughts on Pitch Perfect and Monsters University. You’ve been convinced. They’re the same.