Monsters, Inc. Review

Monsters, Inc. has everything a Pixar movie should: an interesting take on a common story, fantastic animation, top-shelf acting and a sense of child-like wonder. Oh, and John Ratzenberger. Flipping the monster in the closet paradigm on its head, Monsters, Inc. takes the traditional idea and asks a question few consider “Why do they scare?” Many horror films waste countless frames of celluloid attempting to give a brief background or origin story to their ghoulies, but Monsters, Inc. upped the ante. Instead of a mere glimpse, they completely dive into the world of monsters and tell us a story about avarice and business ethics while still providing a film most kids will go ga-ga for.

James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman) holds the record in Monstropolis for the most energy generated by scaring children. Contrary to the really simple conceptualization of monster-lives-in-closet, the monsters of Monstropolis have a genuinely genius method for reaching their targets. The door of each closet acts as a gateway between the two worlds, one located in our human part and the other located in the powerplant. Scarers, like Sulley, partner with a technician who cycles the doors through a given station to keep the screams a flowin’. Sulley’s partner and best friend is Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), a small, squat and green Cyclops. The duo excel in their positions and stay comfortably ahead of their main slimy competitor, the chameleon-esque Randall (Steve Buscemi). As happy as Mike, on the verge of engagement to his girlfriend Celia (Jennifer Tilly), and Sulley are in their posts, the future isn’t so bright for Monstropolis’ biggest supplier of scream-energy. Screams have become increasingly difficult to come by and the city is locked in an energy crisis (how timely).

The adventure begins when Sulley chances upon a lone doorway in use after working hours have ended. His initial investigation leads him to believe the room is empty, until he closes the door with the room’s occupant, a young girl, loose in the monster world. Viewed as toxic by the monster authorities, little ‘Boo’ as she comes to be known, causes a huge fuss and cover-up as everyone scrambles to figure out where the child has gone and why that door was in use that fateful night. Meanwhile, Sulley and Mike run about with Boo in tow trying to get her back through her door and into her room.

The story for Monsters, Inc. may be one of the best Pixar has told to date. The relationship between Sulley and Mike never takes that “whose job is more important” twist that many children’s films do; instead, we see a much more mature understanding of responsibility and sense of duty. When Mike and Sulley finally do hit their point of conflict, over Sulley’s deep-seated concern for the safety of Boo in the face of all else, it’s a moment growth for both characters and not just one. The film’s final message comes across as a permutation of “you attract more bees with honey than vinegar” and yet, your average child won’t absorb the message until they’re much older. Monsters, Inc. has a level of entertainment and lesson for all ages – just as every film aimed at children should.

Pixar has a reputation for excellence in animation that’s recognized by all. A single Pixar film, even Cars, can make that much clear to the casual observer. Monsters, Inc. sports some of the most detailed work they’ve ever done along with some of the most clever character design that I think they’ll ever have (until Monsters, Inc. 2). The picture radiates a rich color spectrum and the textures have a level of depth uncommon in animated features.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

It’s the traditional Disney hat trick: a Blu-ray, DVD and digital copy all rolled up in one package. But wait! You may think that means there’s only three discs – but there’s a fourth Blu-ray extras disc. Four discs. Oh, the fabulous excess! The extras have some excellent pieces on the new Monsters, Inc. theme park area in Tokyo’s Disneyland, a round table discussion with the creators of Monsters, Inc. which is utterly fantastic, though only for the adults as most kids won’t care. The old DVD extra features from the previous release have also been included: the Academy Award winning animated short For the Birds and the Oscar-nominated short Mike’s New Car. Both are excellent. Finally, the main Blu-ray disc is rounded out with an equally worthwhile audio commentary that will make adults want to watch it again once the kids have gone to bed. The second Blu-ray disc features an immersive and engrossing series of games aptly titled “Roz’s 100-Door Challenge”. Everyone will enjoy this. This is a fantastic example of a fully-loaded Blu-ray release.

Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Ratatouille – they’re all great, but there’s an extra something that just makes Monsters, Inc. stand out. It’s a superior movie in a high definition format with hours of complementary extras. This should be a no-brainer for parents looking to spend a smart dollar.

"Monsters, Inc." is on sale November 10, 2009 and is rated G. Adventure, Animation, Children & Family, Comedy. Directed by Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich, David Silverman. Written by Pete Docter & Jill Culton & Jeff Pidgeon & Ralph Eggleston. Starring John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Billy Crystal, John Ratzenberger, Mary Gibbs, Jennifer Tilly.

Nov
17
2009
Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.

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