“U” Monsters: College Movies With Comedy Bite

"Monsters University" aims to become an alum of these classic higher ed. flicks that chewed into the pop culture.

Pixar delivers a kid-friendly riff on fraternity life with "Monsters University." It's a novel approach to a trope more often associated with cheeky adult comedies and teen slasher flicks than animated fare primarily aimed at the younger set.

"Scaring, is the true measure of a monster," says Dean Hardscrabble (the voice of Helen Mirren) in a promo trailer for the prequel to "Monsters, Inc." And scaring up huge returns at the box office is the true measure of a monster summer hit.

"Inc." was in release for 47 weeks following its debut in 2001and has grossed over half a billion dollars worldwide. Shocking numbers Disney and Pixar no doubt hope "U" can replicate.

Revisiting one-eyed Mike (Billy Crystal) and blue fluffball Scully (John Goodman) as they endure their awkward yet funny days of higher education harks back to classic college comedies like "National Lampoon's Animal House" and "Revenge of the Nerds." This time though, instead of "House's" Deltas vs. Omegas, it's Mike and Scully's Oozma Kappa vs. the smarmy creatures of Roar Omega Roar.

"University" Director Dan Scanlon visited real campuses to get a sense of student life and told USA Today that he and his team also studied the golden age of 1970s and '80s fraternity comedies for inspiration.  "There are lots of monster mullets, puffy shoes and popped collars throughout the film," Scanlon said. "It seemed like the honorable thing to do."

In preparation for the release of "Monsters University" on June 20, check out these now classic college-based movies that scared up either big box office numbers or cult status among fans:

"Legally Blonde" (2001)

Obsessed with all things cute, fluffy or pink, Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods was the least likely candidate for Harvard Law School in this feelgood comedy hit. After being dumped by her boyfriend, Woods sets out to win him back and the first  step is to follow him to college. Right!? The sorority ditz with a head for business was so popular she returned for a sequel and inspired a Broadway musical. 

"National Lampoon's Animal House" (1978)

"What am I?" asks John Belushi as John Blutarsky in the cult comedy. Answer: "A zit!" If you don't get the reference you're either in the minority or born decades after the film was released. Politically incorrect and filled with memorable sight gags, audiences embraced the John Landis-directed hit centered around the members of a Greek fraternity who are more interested in making mischief and mayhem than maintaining a high grade point average.

"Revenge of the Nerds" (1984)

A savvy counterpoint to “Animal House,” misfits and outcasts were the stars of this comedy that celebrated the smart set before television's "The Big bang Theory" raised nerds to their current beloved status. The films centers around a group of science majors who finally take one put down too many and rise up against the smug superiority of an all-white fraternity. Robert Carradine, Anthony Edwards, Timothy Busfield and John Goodman all feature in this classic underdog tale.

"Old School" (2003)

A natural precursor to director Todd Phillip's "The Hangover," "Old School" checked all the hallmark boxes of  "Animal House" and "Nerds" in this over-the-top tale of three married men — played with abandon by  Will Ferrell, Luke Wilson and Vince Vaughn —  who set up a fraternity house on the edge of campus so they can party like undergrads. Enlisting the help of the student body disenfranchised, they attempt to outwit the evil Dean Pritchard (Jeremy Piven) who is intent on having them removed. The tranquilizer dart to the neck scene is Ferrell comedy gold.

"Back to School" (1986)

Comedian Rodney Dangerfield is a mega-wealthy businessman off to college for the first time in an effort to help his discouraged son learn to love campus life. Dangerfield delivers a stream of eye-roll gags and countless sexual innuendos in tandem with memorable performances from Sally Kellerman, Ned Beatty and Sam Kinison as an insane professor. Random point of interest: the film contains a cameo appearance by Kurt Vonnegut.

"The Nutty Professor" (1996)

Eddie Murphy stars as the literal "big man on campus" in this remake of the 1963 Jerry Lewis original of the same name. As the rotund Professor Klump, Murphy turns in an hysterical, yet moving performance as genetic scientist whose physical size keeps him at a distance from a happy life. When a science lab experiment produces a chemical serum that transforms him into the svelte but obnoxious Buddy Love, Klump must choose between a life of shallow gratification or a contented inner existence. Under various fat suits, Murphy stars as seven different characters throughout the film. One standout scene sees him single-handedly portray all the rowdy Klumps at the dinner table.

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