Fresh off the success of Toy Story 2, Pixar once again proved their animated prowess with Monsters, Inc., an utterly original take on monsters in closets. My VC has said that all the wacky diversity in the monster world seems almost drug-induced, and with Pixar’s penchant for nonstop sight gags and visual inventiveness, it deserves multiple re-watches.
Aside from the unique, detailed CGI animation, much of the film’s success comes from the buddy pairing of deep-and-friendly-voiced John Goodman as Sully and frenetic comedian extraordinaire Billy Crystal as Mike. Their funny banter and frequent disagreement make their friendship seem real and better realized than Sully’s relationship with Boo, which is certainly more touching. It would have been nice to have some character development for Boo, who has no backstory to speak of or a meaningful personality beyond generic cuteness, unlike Russell in Up. Steve Buscemi’s nasally voice is surprisingly villainous as Randall Boggs, and James Coburn and Jennifer Tilly round out the voice cast nicely. Of course, John Ratzenberger had to have his requisite cameo, and it’s certainly one of his funniest and most unexpected. Also, can you believe that Bob Peterson, who played icky, monotone Roz, was also the voice of Dug in Up?
While the animation was not yet at the level reached by Ratatouille or WALL-E, it’s still colorful and seamless. The door vault scene is especially exciting and impressive, a classic among animated action sequences. Thanks to the humor, my VC enjoys this Pete Docter-directed film more than his later work in Up. Whereas Up’s plot was almost schizophrenic with all the disparate elements crammed in, Monsters, Inc. possesses one core concept and milks the hilarity and ingenuity from it as only Pixar can.
Pixar’s films tend to have some kind of social commentary, some more obvious than others, and Monsters, Inc.’s is quite subtle, only being presented in a few scenes. The driver for Randall’s plot to extract screams forcefully is the fact that kids are harder to scare, indirectly explained by their watching scary or violent television. Similarly, the scene at the end with Mike’s comedy routine indicates that what makes kids laugh has changed over time as well. Whereas verbal humor, such as in Leave It to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show, used to keep kids (as well as adults) entertained, such shows don’t fly nowadays, having been replaced by frantic, sometimes gross comedy, such as Mike’s belch. This analysis is certainly not the film’s focus, existing mainly in some throwaway gags, but it’s something I’ve noticed after several viewings.
Overall, Monsters, Inc. may not be as emotionally engaging as their other work, but it’s another Pixar favorite that cemented their reputation as leaders in the animation industry, even if it lost the Best Animated Feature Academy Award to DreamWorks’ Shrek. (It did win Best Original Song for “If I Didn’t Have You.”) Hint: Now that I’ve covered their lesser masterpieces (A Bug’s Life, Cars, etc.), you may not see Pixar’s other films on my list for a while, but there are definitely more on the way.
Best line: (Abominable Snowman, offering yellow snow) “Snow cone? [Mike icks in disgust] “No, no, no, don’t worry. It’s lemon.”Artistry: 6 Characters/Actors: 7 Entertainment: 8 Visual Effects: 8 Originality: 10 Watchability: 8 TOTAL: 47 out of 60
Next: #159 – Splash
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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