Directed by Peter Docter
Review by Matt Heffernan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Some studios started out slow, but not Pixar. When they entered the feature market, it was with Toy Story, a great film that was a huge success. They followed that up with two more brilliant films: A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2. These aren't just good kiddie movies, but instant classics with appeal that crosses all generations. It's a tough reputation to live up to. Perhaps to ease the burden, they have released the less-than-completely-unbelievable Monsters, Inc., but I'd like to see the folks at Disney Studios do better.
In this film, every child's closet door is a portal to an alternate universe ruled by monsters. Their sole source of energy is the screaming of children, and the procurement of this resource is monopolized by Monsters, Inc. They send their best monsters into children's rooms to get those precious screams, and the best of the best is James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), or "Sulley", as his friend and technical assistant Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) knows him. After another day at the company, Sulley checks out a door that wasn't put away (the door system is rather complicated, and too difficult to explain in a short review), and accidentally releases a little girl (Mary Gibbs) into the monster world.
Even though the monsters' livelihood depends on scaring children, they are all deathly afraid of them, believing that the touch of a child is lethally toxic. Sulley soon realizes that there's nothing to be sacred of, and becomes attached to the girl. However, rival "scarer" Randall (Steve Buscemi) is after the girl for his own devious purposes.
Describing the world of Monsters, Inc. is not easy. Its design is yet another feat of artistic genius on behalf of Pixar, who fill every frame with whimsical detail. Sulley, who looks like a giant plush doll, is one of their most complex characters yet. They have rendered each follicle of his fur with great care, creating a realistic impression in all sorts of light. His partner Mike is less impressive -- just a green ball with one eye and skinny little arms and legs -- yet he has become the defining icon in the film's promotion. But I was most impressed by the girl (nicknamed "Boo" by Sulley). Her movement was very realistic, while her appearance was just cartoonish enough to not be creepy. And she is incredibly cute.
In fact, cuteness is an overlying theme in Monsters, Inc. The previous three features were all directed by Pixar chief John Lasseter, who is an expert at blending comedy and action. This time, Peter Docter takes the lead, and he is more "Disney" in his sensibility. The screenplay is funny, but also leans on the cute angle without really pursuing the corporate satire. Perhaps this decision was made to not alienate kids, which is acceptable, but it doesn't make me any happier.
Anyway, it's still a great family film, and features some really exceptional animation. Plus, it's never too early to expose your children to Steve Buscemi. It's better they see this than pick up a copy of Reservoir Dogs off the street.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan