2001; Rated G; 92 Minutes
Produced by Darla K. Anderson, John Lasseter, Kori
Rae and Andrew Stanton; Directed by Peter Docter,
David Silverman and Lee Unkrich; Screenwritten by
Jill Culton, Peter Docter, Ralph Eggleston, Dan Gerson,
Jeff Pidgeon, Rhett Reese and Andrew Stanton
by DAVID KEYES
the other side of closet doors, in a universe right next
door to the ones explored in "Toy Story" and "A
Bug's Life" (in which toys and insects live social
and productive lives), lies the land of Monstropolis, a
colorful but eccentric cityscape that houses beings not
unlike what many of us imagined were living in closets or
under beds when we were young. What has never been said
of monsters, however, prior to Pixar's "Monsters, Inc."
is that human children scare them just as much as they scare
us, and though kids may pull blankets over their heads for
fear of a furry large beast emerging from a doorway, those
same large creatures live with the idea that all children
are toxic and can hurt them right back.
do they frighten children, then, if there is a similar fear
in them? The movie tells us that their world is powered
by the heat of a youngster's little screams, thus making
it essential for the monsters to jump out at them and stimulate
their shrieking. The job is getting rather tough to do,
however, because children, being exposed to the disturbing
and violent images on television, are becoming increasingly
harder to scare. This puts a heavy burden on the film's
main character, James P. Sullivan (or Sully, voiced by John
Goodman), a big, blue, hairy (but kindhearted) creature
who has the reputation at the local Monsters, Inc. power
plant of scaring the most children and collecting the most
screams. The majority of the time, his efforts pay off .
. . until one day a door connecting their world with a child's
closet gets left open, and a cute little girl named Boo
wanders into Monstropolis without a shred of fear of any
creature she comes in contact with. The most charming development:
Boo refers to Sully as "Kitty."
key to the film's success is that it doesn't simply tell
a story, but totally re-imagines an idea. Like "Toy
Story" and "A Bug's Life," the previous efforts
from the masterminds over at Pixar, "Monsters Inc."
tells its story from the perspective of creatures who are
completely misunderstood by their sources, namely children.
All kids are scared of monsters at night, but what they
don't realize, as the plot explains to us, is that it's
nothing personal; the beasts are simply doing their job.
The innocent logic used here is what makes Pixar's products
some of the best the animation market has to offer to begin
with, and at a time when the entertainment industry is bound
by the restrictions of the hectic outside world, it is a
very warm welcome to the movie screen. That doesn't mean
it's a groundbreaking film, but it's hardly a bad one, either.
movie's characters are some of the most interesting ever
seen in animation. Sully (Goodman), for example, looks like
a cross between a tie-dye shirt and the abominable snowman,
and his best friend, little Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal)
could pass off as either an alien or a Cyclops. Many casual
animation fans could easily be put off by this quirky visual
realization, but not to worry--the movie anchors them closer
to reality by using them in ways that reflect our own lives,
such as making them workers of a power plant that is struggling
to retain its power source (obviously echoing the current
power shortages occurring on the US west coast).
an artistic and creative level, "Monsters, Inc."
may be the most visionary, intricate and offbeat product
released by Pixar. However, it does not quite achieve the
memorable thrust of the studio's other films, nor does it
contain the substantial magic of Dreamworks' recent "Shrek."
That's not necessarily a bad thing for the younger audiences
(especially since the latter film is more of an adult-oriented
satire that only looks like a kids movie), but for those
who were old enough to marvel the freedom and ingenuity
of the studio's previous endeavors, it leaves a little something
to be desired. Sure, the concept is bold and fresh (where
else have you heard of monsters scaring kids as part of
a job?), but the characters don't always execute it as well
as they should. Jennifer Tilly does a rather annoying bit
as the apple of Mike's eye, and the green creature himself,
likewise, is brought down by the overbearing influence of
Billy Crystal's standup shtick (despite the fact that the
animators, who are only working with one eyeball, manage
to animate him in astoundingly expressive ways).
yet through all of these little problems, the movie remains
cute, ambitious, fun, colorful, well-animated, and most
importantly, intelligent. Pixar has been known to heighten
the creative bar for computer animation in a way that many
others have only attempted, and in several ways, they do
so here by being less focused on the elaborate visuals and
more concerned with the potential emotional depth of the
story. Monsters, after all, play a significant role in the
life of a childwho live night after night believing
that big scary ghouls will be jumping out of their closets
to scare them to death.
seeing "Monsters, Inc.," needless to say, kids
might actually start looking forward to those kinds of encounters.
2001, David Keyes, Cinemaphile.org.
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