These are what we call the 'YMMV items.' Things that some people find in this work. We call them 'your mileage might vary' because not everyone sees these things in the same way. This starts discussions in the trope lists, a thing we don't want. Please use the discussion page if you'd like to discuss any of these items.
YMMV: Monsters University
Alternative Character Interpretation: Randall Boggs. Him leaving Mike: was it out of a desire to fit in and be accepted, or did he never really think of Mike as a friend? Mike never confronts Randall over his behavior, they just sort of drift apart, so were they friends or just roommates who got along well? Him putting down the Oozma Kappas, was it out of peer pressure, or just sadistic bullying? Is Randall really friends with Roar Omega Roar, or are they just a means to an end for him to be the best? Did he want to keep up his friendship with Mike even after joining ROR?
At least from one of many perspectives, that his act of joining ROR was an attempt to make Mike jealous after having not hang around with him for a while due to being so caught of being a scarer and is actually angry at Sullivan for taking him away from him. It's also hinting that he might not have too many friends before college and he was genuinely pleased to have Mike as his friend because he was the first friend he had. In the end though, Mike seemed to haven't even cared about Randall abandoning him and just...moved on. Meanwhile on the other end, Randall was sobbing somewhere, alone and friendless... Well that's not very nice.
Worth noting that this is also one of the underground interpretations for making Mike a Ron the Death Eater.
Author's Saving Throw: Probably. The film establishes that other Scare companies other than Monsters Inc. exist perhaps to indicate that Scarers who couldn't adjust to Monsters Inc. switch to Laugh energy didn't all suffer unemployment. Now granted, it's not as if Monsters Inc. said that it was a complete switch to Laugh Energy.
Broken Aesop: Some dreams are unattainable, physical limitations can't be ignored, and you'll be better off if you accept it. Fair enough, except for the fact that half the cast is made up of cuddly, awkward monsters — arguably more cuddly than Mike — who play their strengths and utilize creativity to become successful scarers. But for some reason, we're expected to believe that Mike is not scarer material and never will be.
Broken Base: Some fans see this as sub par to the original movie, though others do like this movie because it doesn't override the happy ending of the original.
Others have noted that the drama is impaired considering anyone who watched the original film would know that Mike and Sully are striving to join an industry fundamentally based on a lie.
Cerebus Retcon: In Monsters Inc., Mike served mostly as a comedic Butt Monkey and seemingly second-fiddle to Sully's position. But then the prequel reveals how much grief and failure Mike experienced to get his position, come to terms with his shortcomings, and ultimately be treated like an equal to the on-field Scarers despite only being a coach.
Also, whereas the Monsters' fear of "toxic" children is a main comedic plot point in Monsters Inc., M.U. treats it more seriously when Mike encounters children at the end. It is played mainly for drama, and not just because of the fear of the alleged toxic danger.
Draco in Leather Pants: Johnny Worthington III. It's becoming a trend somewhat. Helps that Word of God wanted to convey through his decorated frat house that Johnny is deathly afraid of failure and his reputation was at stake.
If it weren't enough that Randall was already this in the first film, it just intensified once they saw him in the sequel, where people just can't get enough of making him sympathetic.
Elimination Houdini: The Oozma Kappa team actually fits this trope very well despite not being in a reality TV show. At the start, they clearly did not have the skills to compete with the other fraternities and, were it not for one fraternity being caught cheating, would have been eliminated right off the bat. While Roar Omega Roar continues to outclass them, they continue to make it to the final round by beating just one team. When they finally get their act together, with the exception of Mike and Sully, they do show the other students that they are Scarer material.
Claire Wheeler, the snarky goth girl announcer of the games. Helps that she's voiced by Aubrey Plaza. Her co-commentator, the hammy and hyperactive Brock Pearson is just as popular. The two of them together are also a popular shipping couple.
Dean Hardscrabble is also very popular with the fans. Even many of the film's critics have praised her as one of the best parts of the movie, citing her imposing design and Helen Mirren's performance.
Well, current-societal-attitudes unfriendly, at least. You can be successful without a university education if you work hard and make your way up through the ranks over time. Not really a negative one at all, since it's not as though it's telling people to slack off; Mike and Sulley's path is harder than that of the graduates, though they make it eventually.
The film also has a more brutally honest message: No matter how hard you try, how badly you want it, or how much you love and know about the material, there are just some things in life you can't do, much like the message of Wreck-It Ralph. Accept it, and find where your real talents lie at. This is demonstrated by how Mike has to watch everything work out for the Oozmas, while he takes a more difficult path.
A rather broken message in that the Oozma Kappa monsters do ultimately become successful scarers through a combination of hard work and sheer ingenuity. Mike is the only member never to do this, sticking with the standard "jump out and say 'rawr' method" and giving up when it fails him miserably. A more accurate, albeit unintentional aesop might go something like "be prepared to revise your approach multiple times."
The film often shows that, yes, cruel people have a point. Jerks like ROR are correct in pointing out Oozma Kappa lack traditional Scaring build (but clearly wrong for belittling them). In a sense, this notion drives Oozma Kappa to look further to prove that traditional build is not all there is to it.
This point has more weight given the last thing Worthington tells Mike right before their last match at the Scare Games. He tells Mike "Don't take the loss too hard; you never belonged here anyway." But for once, there is no tone of malice in his voice when he says it as opposed to everything else he has said to Oozma Kappa prior. He says it in a sincere, matter-of-fact tone that denotes that he is aware about the fact that Mike just isn't scary and that Mike should realize that.
Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The film did especially well in Japan, where it grossed over $90 million in its box office run. The colorful, adorable monster designs must have done it for them.
Heartwarming In Hindsight: In the this film, Mike is constantly being told that he is not scary and thus can't be an on-field worker for Monsters Inc despite it being his dream. The fact is driven home when he is seen only as a funny guy by the kids he tries to scare when he sneaks into the human world. However if you remember at the end of the first film, he gets to be an on-field worker precisely because he is funny. In other words, he was able to live his dream, though in a slightly different roundabout way, because of his "flaws".
In the first film, whenever Mike and Sulley talk about breaking the scare record, always say "we" rather than "you" or "I" respectively. After this film, it's very clear that Mike and Sulley really are a team when it comes to scaring.
Hilarious in Hindsight: People who've seen the cartoon Aaahh!!! Real Monsters along with Monsters Inc. might get the idea that both the cartoon and the film have similar plot settings since both involve monsters who need to scare in order to collect energy for their society. Come Monsters University, the setting is even more similar to the cartoon as it involves monsters going to school in order to learn how to scare. Mike and Sulley even fill out roles similar to two of the three main characters of the cartoon. A super studious and hardworking student that relies heavily on books, and another student who is generally lazy but pressured with living up to the family legacy of being the best scarers.
Ho Yay: The scene where Mike dreams about kissing a princess and wakes up kissing Sully's arm, anyone?
Informed Flaw: The characters constantly tell Mike that he is not scary, but he does not stand out as being any less frightening than most of the other cutesy monsters in this film. Of course, this depends on how many of those cutesy ones are scaring majors, and compared to the top scaring students Mike indeed does look sorta wimpy. But it can come off as an informed flaw when the summer camp human kids think Mike looks funny, since a green eyeball goblin-thing COULD look pretty creepy.
Sulley. Although, he had lied and cheated by tweaking Mike's scare level during the final Scare Game, he was at least upfront and honest about it to Mike and the Dean, facing expulsion and rejection. It turns out that he did it because he was deathly afraid of failure and did feel that he couldn't let O.K. down.
Strangled by the Red String: Don and Squishy's Mom, albeit played for laughs. While their pairing up is obvious due to similarities and proximity and they likely knew each other for a time, there is only one scene of amorous affection, and then they get engaged. Though this might have been a device to indicate that a significant, but ambiguous, amount of time passed since Mike's and Sully's arrest.
Those who were expecting a tragic and sympathetic backstory for Randall were greatly disappointed. In addition, the film barely fleshes out Johnny Worthington's fear of failure, as Word of God suggests.
Celia is nowhere to be found (aside from a brief shot of a picture of her in Mike's locker near the end), which is especially conspicuous due to her strong resemblance to the girls of PNK.
Terri and Terry, arguably. They had potential to be really interesting, but after their introduction, not much is done with them. Some people don't think that it's because they are "boring character(s) with little use".
Not making Terri female, for some. Particularly odd because of the skewed gender ratio of the film, which Pixar has been trying to avert recently, and because Terri is a popular girl's name. This has some justification in that fraternities are suppose to be male-only, with sororities being the female counterpart... although co-ed fraternities do exist in real life. They also could have wanted it to be more original, since a male/female pair of quarreling Siamese twins has been done before.
Although they work quite hard, the Oozma Kappa's motivation to join the Scaring Field isn't quite fleshed out like Mike's motivation.
Also Terry and Terri during the final round. Their scare tactic involves them disguising themselves as a mostly normal human silhouette, but with enough of a difference to be very unsettling.
The Woobie: Mike is made to be this from the beginning. Nobody expects anything of him and even his own cousin doesn't want to partner up with him. The film keeps making it worse by everyone constantly telling Mike that he will never be scary and that he doesn't belong in MU. But, despite all of the insults and put-downs, Mike still stays on top, making him an Iron Woobie.