Now Showing: Monsters, Inc.

Posted: Tuesday, November 06, 2001

The discovery of Pixar is probably the best thing to happen to Disney in the last twenty years. The union of the two has produced some major home-runs, both artistically and financially. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 will go down in kid-movie history. A Bug's Life made it's Dreamworks competition Ants look stilted and dull. Unfortunately, Disney's efforts aside from Pixar have been less than stellar. Atlantis? Ho hum. The Emperor's New Groove? Yikes. It's getting a little scary. Now, after delving into the worlds of bugs and toys, Disney and Pixar have taken on something a little larger. Let's hope they haven't bitten off more than they can chew.

Our story takes place in th bustling city of Monstropolis; a city populated by, wouldn't you know it, monsters. It turns out that the world of monsters is not unlike the world of humans. They watch TV, they go on dates, they hold down jobs, just like you and me. The real difference between the monsters and us, aside from the six extra eyes, or the snake-hair, is that while we use electricity to run our world, monsters use children's screams, induced and collected by Monsters, Inc., the power company that cares. And Sully and Mike, our heroes, are the company's top scarers.

The only real difficulty in running a business like Monsters, Inc. is that the prevailing opinion in monsterdom is that children are toxic; deadly. This, combined with the fact that kids are becoming more and more sensitized to scary things, is putting a real crimp in the city's power supply. Monsters' giant closet door-transit system provides access to any kid's room in the world, but jumping out of the dark or hiding under the bed just isn't enough anymore. With rolling blackouts looming, a creepy chameleon named Randall has come up with a devious plan to steal abundant energy. Rollicking wackiness ensues.

Like Toy Story, Monsters boasts an all-star cast. Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Kelsey Grammer, and Steve Buscemi are just of few of the vocal talents lent to the eclectic cast of monsters. It's really a kick to see such alien creatures with such recognizable and comforting voices. It's a testament to the relationship between the actors and the animators that Billy Crystal's eyeball-with-legs doesn't seem jarringly bizarre. In fact, the animation is truly the star in a film like this. Sully's fur is incredibly real looking, and Randall's quick changes are one of the film's highlights. Those Pixar guys just keep getting better and better; pretty soon we're not going to be able to tell the difference. The danger with a movie like this, is that the look gets in the way of the plot.

Monster's Inc. is cute, visually stunning, and just a little dumb. It's too bad, really, because with as original a premise as this film has, they could've really pulled out all the stops. They had the opportunity to lampoon endless aspects of our society. This movie could have been filled to the brim with witty references and satiric observations, while maintaining the outer veneer of kid-friendliness. It should have been smarter. And it could have. There are a few of the kind of moments I just described, the kind of tidbits that made the Toy Story movies such a pleasure for adults and kids. The whole ad campaign for the Monsters, Inc. business is hilarious, as is the scene of the sushi restaurant with an octopus as it's knife wielding chef. But overall, they stick to the cute jokes, the slapstick humor; it's more Hanna Barbera than Bugs Bunny. That's fine, but it's not going to inspire many adult repeat viewings.

Overall, Monsters, Inc. is a lot of fun, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone. It has a few definite flaws; missed opportunities and lapses in logic, but those can be overlooked considering the sheer joy in movie-making that is up on the screen. Pixar movies are fun, literally, for the whole family. And I don't mean in the way that Barney is fun for the whole family, as long as no one in the family is older than five. So it wasn't as hip as it could have been. If that's my only complaint, then the future of Disney movies may not be a scary thought after all. Grade: B

Monster's Inc. is rated G

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