Monster’s Inc. (2001)

Pixar are the animation titans who have been delivering first-rate pictures under the Disney banner for the last five/six years. The placement of their name is like a seal of quality, unlike the placement of the Disney name. Monsters Inc. is the latest and it’s crammed full of humorous jokes and lively imagination that can propel it forward despite the bad score by Randy Newman.

Monsters Inc. is a corporation in a monster universe that trains its workers to enter the bedrooms of sleeping children and derive scares for resources. Their monster world is powered by the screams of children and it seems times are getting tougher. Children are becoming harder to scare (blame CNN) and it seems an energy crisis is looming. The pressure is on for the big blue bear that is James P. “Sully” Sullivan (John Goodman). Sully is close to achieving the all-time scare record with the aid of his assistant Mike (Billy Crystal), a small one-eyed green guy. But their scare colleague Randall (Steve Buscemi), a bad tempered purple reptile, is nipping at Sully’s heels.

The clever twist of Monsters Inc. is that these frightful creatures, some with spikes and some as many eyes as Elizabeth Taylor ex-husbands, are as afraid of children as they are of them. Reportedly their touch is toxic and possibly fatal. A single sock getting stuck to one unfortunate monster on his return causes an entire decontamination unit to spring forward. The joke is both alarmingly timely but also a great visual gag as all the different shaped monsters fit into their suits.

One night Sully accidentally lets a small toddler enter their world. He fears what the ramifications of this outbreak might be and struggles to keep her presence under wraps with the help of Mike, but Boo (as Sully dubs her later) is more than an adorable handful. The pair get into a mess of trouble and constantly trying to keep Boo clear of contact.

John Goodman provides a great performance as the sweet and cuddly Sully. His demeanor is one that warms him to the audience. Crystal provides some good laughs and walks a very fine line of going overboard into his usual borsch belt humor. Buscemi has the menacing voice that gives Randall life. The real star is Boo, whose actual voice was provided by one of the animator’s own kids. Every coo, every laugh, every word she says is full of such glee that it’s uncontrollably cute. She’s almost an overpowering force of cuteness.

Late into the story it tries to go for something below the surface by having Sully see the consequences of his profession. His attachment to Boo is a bit far-fetched in the great speed it occurs and the groan-worthy happy ending is a miscue that could have been ripe with possibilities.

The animation of Monsters Inc. is nothing short of flawless. Something Pixar does better than any studio is fluidity of movement. At times during Shrek the characters are a tad stiff or blocky in their movements, but with ‘Monsters Inc.’ every gesture, every wavering hair on Sully, it’s all wonderfully fluid. Pixar are marvels at what they can do with computers and Monsters Inc. is another impressive chink on their already impressive belt.

The film lacks the heart of a Toy Story but doesn’t lack in imagination. The whole concept is very inventive and reconfirming of the suspicion we all had as kids. A sequence late into the film where Randall chases Sully and Mike through a vast area with thousands of doors on rails is the true highlight. This scene is awe inspiring and a head rush by the majestic care put into it and the comic payoffs it has. It’s a chase scene that’s worth following.

Monsters Inc. is funny enough and creative enough to be well worth a viewing. It lacks the subtext and human emotion of the two Toy Storys, but is still entertaining in its own right. My grandma described it as the movie “with the talking M&M.”

Nate’s Grade: B+

About natezoebl

One man. Many movies. I am a cinephile (which spell-check suggests should really be "epinephine"). I was told that a passion for movies was in his blood since I was conceived at a movie convention. While scientifically questionable, I do remember a childhood where I would wake up Saturday mornings, bounce on my parents' bed, and watch Siskel and Ebert's syndicated TV show. That doesn't seem normal. At age 17, I began writing movie reviews and have been unable to stop ever since. I was the co-founder and chief editor at PictureShowPundits.com (2007-2014) and now write freelance. I have over 1400 written film reviews to my name and counting. I am also a proud member of the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA) since 2012. In my (dwindling) free time, I like to write uncontrollably. I wrote a theatrical genre mash-up adaptation titled "Our Town... Attacked by Zombies" that was staged at my alma mater, Capital University in the fall of 2010 with minimal causalities and zero lawsuits. I have also written or co-written sixteen screenplays and pilots, with one of those scripts reviewed on industry blog Script Shadow. Thanks to the positive exposure, I am now also dipping my toes into the very industry I've been obsessed over since I was yea-high to whatever people are yea-high to in comparisons.

Posted on November 15, 2001, in 2001 Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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