Sequels take something special and try to replicate it, a paradox that usually leads to the dismal likes of “The Hangover Part III.” You can’t photocopy uniqueness, but you can make money off the attempt, which is why all those roman numerals clutter up the nation’s multiplexes. As it proved with the “Toy Story” films, each better and more resonant than the last, Pixar is generally considered the exception to the rule. As it proved with “Cars 2,” the company’s also capable of stumbling.
“Monsters University” is better than “Cars 2” but not enough, and along with last year’s inspired but cluttered “Brave,” it offers unsettling evidence that Pixar’s Golden Age may be in the past. The movie is an astonishing work of digital artisanry — would we expect anything less from John Lasseter’s team of Soopa-Geniuses? — that tells an engaging but well-worn tale. If you’ve seen any college movie ever, from the silent comedy of “The Freshman” to “Back to School” to “Legally Blonde,” you’ll be familiar with the story beats and themes of fitting in while trying not to sell out.