Bex has reviewed the theatrical release of Monsters, Inc. – the latest offering from Pixar. The film takes us behind the scenes at the main power plant in Monstropolis, where hard-working monsters labour to elicit screams from young children to power their city. Monsters, Inc. is released in the UK on 8th February.
Kids are scared of monsters in the closet and under the bed, but where do these monsters come from? And what do they do while they’re waiting for night-time to approach so they can come out and scare people again? This is the basic premise of Monsters, Inc. – to follow these monsters and to see what they do when they’re not out scaring kids. The answer is that they’re living their normal lives in Monstropolis, which is powered by children’s screams. Monsters, Inc. is the company that provides the power, and as such all the child-scarers work and train there. The story follows Sully (John Goodman) – a lovable huge blue furry monster – and his assistant and best friend – a walking eyeball – Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal). Sully is the most successful scarer employed at Monsters, Inc., although chameleon-like Randall Biggs (Steve Buscemi) is desperate to beat Sully’s record by any means necessary.
The biggest problem facing Monsters, Inc. is that children are getting less scared of monsters, so it’s harder to get all the energy required for Monstropolis. Sully’s solution is to work harder, Biggs’ is to create a scream extractor that will work on children whether they’re scared or not. One night Sully walks through a child’s door that shouldn’t be there, and finds Boo, a small child who’s not only unscared of him but who also sneaks back into Monstropolis when he returns. This is a potential disaster for Monstropolis, as monsters believe any contact with children will kill them, so inevitably Sully is terrified and tries to get Boo to return home. Of course, this doesn’t happen and Sully soon has to enlist Mike’s help to keep the child hidden while trying to return her safely to her bedroom.
Over the course of time looking after Boo, Sully grows to realise that she isn’t toxic and that she’s really quite loveable. Mike doesn’t warm to her quite so quickly, but he’s willing to help his friend out. When Biggs captures Boo and starts to trial his ingenious invention on her, it’s left to Mike and Sully to rescue her from his evil clutches and return her safely home…
As we’ve come to expect from Pixar, the animation is superb and attention to detail can be seen in almost every aspect of the film. For example, the road-crossing signs in Monstropolis read ‘Stalk’, ‘Don’t Stalk’, and a restaurant that appears in the film is called ‘Harry Hausen’s’ in deference to the great Ray Harryhausen, animator of Clash of the Titans amongst others. The monsters are beautifully created to glorious effect – each different in size, shape, skin, and movement – and there is plenty of visual detail to drink in. The real triumph of characterisation is in Boo though, an extremely observant portrayal of a 2-year old, from her language to her movement and mannerisms.
The film is funny, another Pixar staple, though I personally didn’t find it as funny as their previous efforts. The comedy here is based on the banter between characters, specifically Mike and Sully, who work well together. The plot is fast-moving and at times exciting, but there’s no real chance for relationships to fully develop, so we’re left to take a lot of development on faith (such as Sully’s growing love for Boo). In return we get fast pacing and some incredible action sequences, especially a roller-coaster chase scene involving hundreds of doors on a seemingly endless conveyor system.
I thought the voice actors all did a good job, with great casting and superb animation to maximise this. No one turned in a weak performance. Goodman and Crystal take up the most screen time, but Buscemi also deserves an honourable mention for his slimey characterisation of Biggs. Mike’s love interest, Celia, the snake-haired receptionist of Monsters, Inc., is voiced by Jennifer Tilly…who does a great job, as does James Coburn as the boss of Monsters, Inc – Henry J. Waternoose.
Of course, it’s impossible to mention a Pixar film without a nod of the head to the outtakes that accompany it. Although the Monsters, Inc. ones again miss the heights achieved in Pixar’s previous offerings, they’re certainly worth watching and the final one is definitely the crowning moment and fully makes up for the brevity of some of the previous ones. It’s hard to explain, but during the film Mike and Sully cover their actions by pretending to be rehearsing for a musical. The final outtake actually shows the musical – and it’s very good indeed!
Overall, Monsters, Inc. is a fun film that affirms childhood innocence and that laughter is stronger than fear. The message is simple as is the premise, but again Pixar have struck a winning vein through their ability to tell a simple story well, with charm and humour.
It’s the end, but the moment has been prepared for…
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