Monsters, Inc. (VHS, 2002, Clam Shell)

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Pixar Proves That Animation Has No Limits of Greatness

Oct 30, 2001
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Very funny. One of the most exciting finales you'll see all year.

Cons:None that I saw.

The Bottom Line: It may not be quite as good as Shrek, but it's still one of the best films of the year.


This year I plan to send a Christmas card to the people of Pixar. Within its flap will simply be two words – Thank You! Like an Oscar acceptance speech without the time constraints or the free TV offer, I would like to thank Pixar for giving us this wonderful gift for the holidays. Thank you for taking the five years to create every inch of the frames. Thank you for making one of the most enjoyable films in a year filled with mediocre repetition. Thank you for helping prove my argument that animation has no boundaries and is capable of the most wondrous, breathtaking images ever committed to celluloid. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Pixar, responsible for A Bug’s Life and the Toy Story films, can take sole credit for raising the bar when it comes to animated features and they have another winner here. Monsters, Inc. takes place in the world of Monstropolis, a creature-filled utopia whose energy originates from the screams of children. This isn’t an evil place, and the leading scaremeister, Sulley Sullivan (voice by John Goodman) and his one-eyed partner, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) are hardly terrors in their everyday life. But when it comes to the job at the titular company, where its workers pass through doors connected to the kids’ closets in our universe, Sulley is approaching the scare record in a time when the city is on the verge of a “scream shortage.”

His only opposition is the chameleonic Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) who plots for the record himself, even if it means a little overtime cheating. One night, Sulley uncovers his scheme and accidentally lets loose little girl, Boo (Mary Gibbs), out of her bedroom and into Monstropolis. This poses a problem since the mere artifact of clothing "brought over" causes a Silkwood-like panic as faceless yellow suits pounce down to scrub, shave and disinfect the potentially contagious faster than they can say Pig Pen. Sulley and Mike must then keep Boo out of sight, as she enjoys her new playland, and find a way to get her home while Sulley develops a sweet affection for the child.

Monsters, Inc. continues the great tradition of transcending not only traditional animation, but the label of a “family” film. Rugrats and Pokemon are strictly for the kiddies and anytime paint and computer imagery take the place of human interaction, frequently you hear that it’s a perfect family film, one that adults can take kids to and have just as good a time. The great thing about movies like Shrek, Monsters, Inc., and its fellow Pixar compatriots is that it’s not against the law to go see them without a child. You don’t need a babysitting gig or a blood relative in tow to go see this film and have a great time. Kids will have plenty of things to widen their eyes and expand their imagination with and there are plenty of laughs in store for them. But it takes someone with a few more years under their belt to appreciate a nightclub named “Harryhausen's” and the numerous other pop culture in-jokes and, frankly, our imaginations can certainly use a good tweaking now and then.

Monsters, Inc. is a well above average film for its first two-thirds, but its finale is what pulls it way over the top into greatness. Earlier this year when Final Fantasy was hailed for its breakthrough in animated storytelling, I criticized it for falling well short of its potential to push the envelope, especially in its action scenes. Monsters, Inc. says “what envelope?” and concludes with what might be the most exciting climax you will see all year. Imagine the action-packed final chase in Toy Story combined with the vastness of its sequel’s airport conveyor belt race to the finish. Add a little Being John Malkovich to the mix and you’ll be holding your breath before leaving the theater with a giant WOW plastered to your face.

With everyone ranting on about the “perfect movie at the perfect time” since the tragedies nearly two months ago, this is the only one they should be talking about. Not only does it fit the “nice, funny & sweet” category much better than films like Serendipity and Hearts In Atlantis, it also couldn’t be more timely. The running joke about Hazmat-like officials jumping at any potential threat mirrors the recent false alarms we’ve been hearing about baking powder and guacamole while the film serves up a perfectly subtle message that in times of crisis, its better to laugh than to scare. Monsters, Inc. is hilarious, exciting, miraculous to look at and is easily one of the best films of the year. Pixar – we love you. We really, really love you!

(Note: The animated short “For the Birds” will play before Monsters, Inc. and it is every bit as funny as previous Pixar shorts.)


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