MONSTERS, INC. (2001) 

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Billy Crystal
John Goodman
James Coburn
Steve Buscemi
Jennifer Tilly
Bonnie Hunt
Mary Gibbs
Bob Peterson

Peter Docter
David Silverman



Time: 137 mins.
Rating: G
Genre: Animation/Comedy

Won Academy Award for Best Song. Nominations for Best Original Score, Sound Effects Editing and Animated Feature.

The main reason I went to see this film is because of Pixar. I don't normally pay to see "family" films because I don't have children and most of them are not made to be enjoyed by adults. Those made by Pixar are the exception. TOY STORY is one of the funniest movies ever made, animated or not, so I decided to give this flick a whirl. Especially since it has the same creative team. Besides, the animation looked great and with Billy Crystal as one of the lead voices, I figured it would be amusing at the very least. Well, it has more in common with TOY STORY 2 than the original, which means it's not as funny, but has more heart. MONSTERS has its' comic moments, don't get me wrong. However, it's John Goodman's performance as the monster with a soft heart that steals the show and makes you warm with joy. He is the core of this film, which is more of a tale of acceptance and love, than pratfalls and one-liners. Though it has its share of those as well.

The story centers around the workers at Monsters, Inc., the power plant of the monster world. The plant employs scarers who generate power from the screams of little children. James P. Sullivan (Goodman), or Sully to his friends, is the company's best man, popping out of closets and generating the most screams per volume. He is aided by Mike Wazowski, a nervous, little one-eyed creature whose main concern is winning the best scarer contest. Their only competition is a weasely, backstabbing co-worker named Randall (Buscemi). Things are going well until one night when a human child wanders through a neglected door and attaches herself to Sully. Sully is beside himself with fear for himself – the monsters have been told that they'll die if touched by a human – and what will happen to the company if this breach is discovered. Desperate for help, he interrupts Mike's date with his girlfriend Celia (Tilly), where the girl gets loose and wreaks havoc on the restaurant patrons just by walking around.

Mike and Sully are initially horrified to be stuck with this disgusting creature, but she soon wins Sully's heart with her adorable and loving behavior. He becomes so enraptured with her, he begins to call her Boo. They know that Randall is up to no good, but they think that he's just cheating to win the contest. They have no idea that the real reason behind his leaving Boo's door open is much more evil than trying to beat them for an honorary company title. Though not the sharpest knife in the drawer it becomes apparent to Sully that Randall's intentions towards Boo do not have her well-being in mind. He refuses to go along with Mike's plan to send her back, regardless of what will happen to her. Attempting to foil Randall's scheme soon gets them in more trouble than they ever imagined and Boo in the hot seat, fighting for her life. Of course, she has Mike and Sully to fight for her and in the end, they foil the evil plot, figure out a new way to generate energy that solves the power crisis and make a new friend for life.

"Kids these days. They just don't get scared like they used to."

As original ideas go, this one is a real winner. Everyone can relate to the monster in the closet bit. Personally, I still can't sleep with a closet door open. I give huge kudos to the creators for giving this ultimate childhood myth a flip side. The monsters aren't scaring kids to be mean. They need their screams to power their city. Brilliant. The actual story has its ups and downs. The one plot line that works all the way through is the one where Sully and Boo become lifelong friends. It breaks your heart when Sully scares Boo and discovers the fear his job has been creating in the minds of kids around the world. It's a powerful moment, played out perfectly by Goodman, Mary Gibbs and the animators. It is the relationship between Boo and Sully that is the soul of the film. Sully has always been popular and well-liked, but he's never been truly needed before he met Boo. As much as I normally like Billy Crystal, it was Boo who made me laugh the most. The filmmakers' perfectly captured the highs and lows of life as a toddler. Her movements and emotions were dead-on funny. The relationship between Sully and Mike was pretty well done, but nothing original. Goodman and Crystal have good chemistry together and that's really all you can ask for movie buddies.

The girlfriend angle between Crystal and Tilly's characters wasn't explored enough to make much of a difference either way. Basically just a time killer. Buscemi was good as the wicked Randall, but I didn't care all that much for the evil plot angle. Certainly, it was needed to move the story along and give Sully a sense of urgency about Boo, but it's nothing all that untapped. It does, however, give the guys some amusing and exciting moments. The animation helps to raise the level of quality on the project. Pixar, once again, does an amazing job creating a whole new world for us to enjoy. Was it as good as SHREK? No, but it's a close second. It's the little touches more than the big set pieces that make this a worthwhile viewing experience. This is not as funny a film as SHREK, but it has a much bigger heart. I'm not sure if kids will enjoy this film, since I found it a bit slow in points and wished for more laughs, however, I give them points for originality in design and idea. Overall, it delivers quality entertainment in a brightly colored package that will amuse most adults and kids. What more do you need from a family flick?

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