||Monsters, INC. (Disney/Pixar)
Review by Amy Harlib
Running time: 88 minutes. Rated: G.
Directed by: Pete Docter with Lee Unkrich and David Silverman
Writing credits: Dan Gerson Andrew Stanton
Music: Randy Newman.
Cast: Billy Crystal .... Mike Wazowski / John Goodman .... James P. 'Sulley' Sullivan / James Coburn .... Henry J. Waternoose / Jennifer Tilly .... Celia Bonnie Hunt / Mary Gibbs .... Boo / Steve Buscemi .... Randall Boggs
Pixar Animation Studios, producers of the highly praised, innovative CGI
animated features Toy Story 1 and 2 and A Bug's
Life, offers up yet another in what has become an annual event. Monsters,
Inc. lives up to and even surpasses its John Lasseter helmed
predecessors in the complexity of its images and its charm. Lasseter,
now executive producer, passes the torch on to a directorial trio fully
capable of carrying on with equal aplomb.
Monsters, Inc. features a delightfully dotty premise in which the creepy-crawly, scary things that lurk in little children's closets really consist of blue-collar workers employed by the eponymous corporation in order to harvest the screams that power their city Monstropolis. This urban entity exists in a parallel dimension in which the closets serve for entry and egress to our world. In Monstropolis's bizarre continuum, the need to generate fear comes from self-interest, for youngsters' screams provide the power source, energy dwindling because nowadays, kids no longer scare so easily.
The pair of protagonists consist of big, blue and puce-purple, polka-dotted, horned and furry James P. Sullivan AKA Sulley (John Goodman) and his best friend and partner Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), a beachball-sized, peripatetic, big-mouthed, bile-green, ocular orb sprouting spindly arms and legs. They compete neck-and-neck with scheming, chameleon-like Randall Boggs (John Buscemi), for the employee-of-the-month honors bestowed by their crab-like, octopoid CEO Henry J. Waternoose (James Coburn). Obsessed with winning the title from our heroes, Randall attempts to put in a bit of unauthorized overtime which leads to a concatenation of complex mishaps that enable a human child---believed to be toxic to monsters---to stray from her bedroom onto the factory floor.
There the gamin little 3 year old girl (Mary Gibbs), gets discovered and temporarily adopted by Sulley whose formidably bulky exterior houses a kind-hearted soul. When the presence of Sulley's new little charge, ironically nicknamed "Boo", becomes known, general panic ensues while Sulley and Mike strive to return her to her own world. They must do this and avoid attracting the attentions of the CDA (Child Detection Agency), Monstropolis's yellow-suited hazmat squad, in desperate efforts that eventually uncover a sinister conspiracy deep within the innards of the corporation involving Randall and the CEO. How everything gets put to right in an alternative-energy resolution involves mad chases, thrills, chills, abundant parodies, sight gags, slapstick humor, witty dialog and surprise plot twists.
Monsters, Inc., the perfect vehicle for good-natured, clever satire in its warped and topsy-turvy version of our world, abounds in visual jokes including the following gems: the "grossery store"; the "stalk/don't stalk" traffic lights; and the "Daily Glob" newspaper with its headline: "Baby Born with Five Heads---Parents Thrilled"! Which brings up the creatures themselves: in the wacky incongruity of an environment of buildings, flora and vehicles similar to our own inhabited by a fabulous array of beings---squiggly, multi-limbed, eye-stalked, tentacled, slimy or scaled or furred and toothy that come in garish combinations of bright colors, improbable entities that put the Star Wars Cantina to shame---we have the perfect example of the creative potential of CGI.
Among the principle characters, all are superbly voiced and engaging,
including Randall, the villain-we-love-to-hate;and the little heroine
Boo, feisty and adorable (especially when she calls Sulley
"kitty"), without cloying cuteness, stands out. Dazzling art
direction, ingenious scripting, perfectly complementary Randy Newman
score, and laughs galore makes Monsters, Inc. a monster success
in which the whole family can wallow with delight
© 2001 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu