Worth A Look: 19.51%
Just Average: 6.34%
Pretty Crappy: 0.98%
9 reviews, 151 user ratings
by MP Bartley
There's a special kind of genius at work in the Pixar studios, and it's not what you might think. Yes, their use of computer animation continues to astonish and revolutionise with each new output. But as last years Final Fantasy proved, no amount of photo-realistic animation can buy the kind of praise that a Pixar film gets.
And that's because their genius is something else. Something simple. It's in the attention to character and story.I could ramble for paragraph upon paragraph about the animation. About the scene where Sulley (John Goodman) lies unconscious in the snow, as snow slowly falls upon him and how each hair is visibly moving by itself. About the scene where Sulley and Mike (Billy Crystal) hang to a high speed set of revolving doors in pursuit of the evil Randall (Steve Buscemi). But that's not what I took out of the movie. What I took out of the movie was the pleasure I had in spending an hour and a half with some of the warmest characters I've seen in a movie lately.
"Reminds me why I love movies in the first place."
It's the kind of feeling I had after seeing 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' for the first time and wanting to be Indy's accomplice. After seeing 'It's A Wonderful Life' for the first time and just hoping that I could have as much an effect on just one persons life as George Bailey does on so many.
'Monsters Inc' is set in the world of Monstropolis, a world connected to ours by wardrobe doors in kids bedrooms. Each night teams of monsters take it in turns to go through the doors and make the children scream in fear. However, this is not out of some sadistic game. Monstropolis is powered by childrens screams and needs a constant supply of screams.
Most of the monsters are actually pretty harmless, including top scarer Sulley a giant blue bear, and his partner Mike a one-eyed green blob. They're actually just as scared of the children as they believe that anything connected to the human world is toxic, and anything crossing over to Monstropolis from the human world is instantly destroyed.
Sulley however, has a sly rival in Randall, who is determined to overtake him as top scarer. This entails Randall doing late night scare shifts behind everyone's backs. When one such mission goes wrong however, a 2year old girl (Mary Gibbs) escapes into Monstropolis and finds herself in the unwilling care of Sulley and Mike, who have to keep her secret. Will they manage to keep her out of the grasp of Randall? And when it comes down to it can Sulley overcome his rapidly developing attatchment to the girl (nicknamed Boo)to get her back home?
As I've said before much of the pleasure of 'Monsters Inc' comes not from the animation but from the attention of detail to the story, characters and script. Talking about the animation is like talking about 'Star Wars' and just talking about it's themes of family and loyalty: it ignores the sheer thrills it offers.
For a start, Goodman and Crystal have a natural rapport that flows a lot easier than Pixars other famous team of Woody and Buzz Lightyear (Woody and Buzz are great creations but their comedy arises from the differences between them and the effort of the scriptwriters. Goodman and Crystal are more a natural comic team).
Goodman's Sulley is the epitome of the gentle giant, whereas Mike is the more hyperactive, chaotic of the two. And Buscemi gives 'Monsters Inc' what both Toy Storys lacked: a truly hissable villain. The fact that he and Sully and Mike are battling over a small child makes the battle all the more engrossing. The more Sulley and Mike try to hide her, the greater Sulleys feelings grow for her as he realises that she's not toxic. One scene where he inadvertently frightens her fairly breaks the heart. And Boo, is one of the most adorable children to feature in a film (Yes, I'm a grown man and yes, I did use the word adorable in a sentence. Now back off)
If this all sounds like sentimental mush that would be to ignore one thing: it's funny. Really, really funny. Granted, it never really reaches the wit of the Toy Storys' but that's like criticising Da Vinci for not topping the Mona Lisa. It's not as subtle as either of those two and aims for a more slapstick, family humour, but adults and film fans should take pleasure in noting a restaurant called Harryhausens or Randall mentioning a woodchipper.
But that is to ignore the amount of fun that Crystal in particular seems to be having as Mike, be it spraying disinfectant into his eyes, or the rehersal of his blatantly improvised musical while he tries to hide Boo.
'Monsters Inc' also manages to surpass Toy Story 1 and 2 on two counts here. Firstly, the usual faked out-takes at the end are the kind that really show how much attention goes into a Pixar project. And despite a slower start than the Storys' it manages to surpass the climax with a simply jaw-dropping chase through a maze of wardrobe doors.
As with all of Pixars output, 'Monsters Inc.' is a simple conceit, beautifully done. If only all studios could follow their example.'Monsters Inc' just misses the classic status of the Toy Storys' because it aims it's humour just a little bit lower than usual and it's set-up is a little more forced than the simple idea of toys coming to life, but it still manages to cram more humour, excitement and invention into it's running times than ten summer blockbusters.
And the final beautifully realised scene will send even the sternest of hearts home with a lump in their throat.Pixar, I thank you once again.
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originally posted: 03/05/02 15:35:34