Monsters, Inc. Review

(3.5 STARS)

“Monsters Inc.” doesn’t often come up in discussions of the best Pixar films. So I had never made it a point to see it. But with the announcement of a sequel (coming in 2012), I thought it was time to take a look at the only Pixar film I haven’t seen, and I’m grateful I did. The film is a clever and incredibly imaginative delight.

In an alternate monster-populated world, Monsters Inc. dominates the energy market. The factory contains millions of singular doors through which the workers, all monsters of course, enter the human world and collect screams from unsuspecting children in their beds. These screams power the monster world. The most prolific scream-collector is Sully (voice of John Goodman). With the help of his partner Mike (Billy Crystal), Sully regularly breaks his own records and is the apple of CEO Henry J. Waternoose’s (James Coburn) eye. Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi), however, is not too high on Sully. He thinks he is a better scream-collector and will do whatever it takes to bring his rival down.

One night, Sully finds Randall working after hours. Suspicious, he looks into it further and accidently lets a very young girl (Mary Gibbs) into the monster world. Anything let in from the human world, we are told, is toxic, and children are fatal to the touch. So an infiltration like this is disastrous for Sully’s reputation. But as he tries to hide the girl he calls Boo, he grows attached to her – and she to him. So what starts out as a cover-up develops into a quest to safely get Boo home.

The film looks beautiful, although that shouldn’t come as a surprise – all Pixar films are. And the monster world is tremendously creative. From the idea of screams as energy to each of the physical quirks about the monsters (Mike’s girlfriend Celia – voiced by Jennifer Tilly – is especially funny), the Pixar directors, writers, and animators are unrivaled in terms of cinematic imagination.

The voice work is spot on. None of the actors feels out of place, and none of them overshadows the part. Crystal and Goodman obviously have the biggest parts and most to do, but Coburn, Tilly, newcomer Gibbs, and Pixar regular John Ratzenberger are all quite good. The closest there is to a weak link in the voice cast is Steve Buscemi. He’s not quite menacing enough to pull off the role of evil villain.

The film is heavy on lessons, like most Pixar films. This one is not to be afraid of those who are different from you. The film doesn’t shove this down your throat. There are a few occasions when it feels a little heavy-handed, but you just have to remind yourself it’s a family film. Moments like that are allowed.

Where does “Monsters Inc.” rank within the Pixar catalog? Well, it doesn’t quite match up with “Toy Story,” “WALL-E,” “Up,” or even “The Incredibles,” but I’d but it solidly near the middle of the amazingly solid pack along with “Toy Story 2” and “Ratatouille.” I really enjoyed it, and I’m a little ashamed it took me this long to get around to seeing it. I’m definitely onboard for a sequel (despite being a little hesitant about the number of Pixar sequels that have been announced), and I have faith that Pixar will do right by these characters. Looking at their resume, they haven’t let us down yet.

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