Monsters Inc. (2001) — Pixar delivers another smash hit

“I’ve always wanted a pet that could KILL ME!”

PoolMan’s rating: The best thing Disney’s done in ages.

PoolMan’s review: There’s one thing that holds the entire human race together in terms of common experience. At some point in our lives, we were all kids. We were easy to please, and we spoke in a gibberish that from culture to culture probably sounds remarkably similar. We fussed over what we ate, what we got to do, and when we got to do it. And to this day, I’ve yet to meet anybody who wasn’t at least a little scared of the dark and the monsters that live there as a kid. So how much sense does it make to create a movie all about kids and monsters, put them in a fun light, and watch them go?

Monsters Inc, operates on a great little idea: Not only are the monsters our children see at night real, they live in a world connected to ours by our closet doors. They have their own society, their own technology, and it’s all powered by the screams of children, which happen to be a pretty clean source of energy. Of course, the only way to get a scream from a kid is to scare ’em, ergo the titular power company Monsters Incorporated, a corporation dedicated to scaring kids and bottling their screams to help fuel their world. They don’t see it as mean, it’s just their job. Of course, the down side of their chosen profession is the extremely high danger involved. Children are believed to be highly toxic, deadly to the touch.

Enter Sully and Mike (voiced by John Goodman and Billy Crystal), a pair of monsters who work in tandem at the power plant. They not only stumble onto a conspiracy against children and traditional scaring, they accidentally release “Boo.” The first twenty minutes or so of this movie may seem kind of slow, but when Boo, a pijamaed little toddler with pigtails and a love of blue fur, hits the scene, the laughs just do not stop as Monstropolis is turned upside down while the monsters try to (at first) throw her back into her world and (later) save her and countless other little kids.

The story that drives Monsters Inc is brilliant, and I don’t mean to take anything away from the screenwriters, but the crux of the movie isn’t the script. It’s not the wonderfully done CGI monsters that fill the screen (including the very hairy Sully). It’s all about these great characters, especially Boo. I’ve seen Monsters Inc twice in theaters already, and the last time just made me want to see it again. The interaction, the pace, and the downright funny troubles this seemingly harmless little girl gets everyone into are a joy to keep up with, and the emotional involvement is surprisingly deep for a cartoon (yep, I teared up a bit at the end… I’m a man, I can admit it). If you’re a big kid like me, you’ll really find yourself chuckling at Boo’s antics as she wanders around as only a two year old could do. And there’s lots more lines than the ones I could remember below. This IS Billy Crystal we’re talking about here.

Saying Monsters Inc is the best thing Disney’s done in the past few years may be a bit of a misnomer. Technically, Monsters Inc was done by Pixar, who also brought us the great Toy Story movies, and Disney’s just riding their success. But regardless, if you were to count this as a Disney movie, it’d be my favourite one of the last decade at least (Toy Story included). It’s a smart, fun, involving story filled with great characters and wonderful heart. And it’s definitely worth taking a “boo.”

Justin’s rating: Ahhhhh! PoolMan’s facial hair scared me!

Justin’s review: Common sense and a survival instinct are good things to have. I personally try to hold onto both, which is why you don’t see me voluntarily strapping elastic cords to my ankles and jumping off of somewhat high bridges just to experience the fun of my retinas detaching. Yet, I realize that there’s a movement in the world today away from these time-honored traditions and toward many activities that go against what your mother warned you about. For example: swimming in shark cages, drivers under the age of 18, refried French fries, any extreme sports, and keeping rabid badgers as pets. What’s happened to the world? Why have people, for a lack of clinical study results, gone completely bonkers?

I’ll tell you why: children’s movies.

You might think I’m being jocular about this subject, but I’m kind of not. Have you watched a kid’s movie and ever examined what it’s teaching the youth of today? It seems like every kids flick is bound and determined to undercut any sense of survival or logic that parents might be trying to install in their children. Sure, a dad might warn their little son that bears are dangerous, carnivorous animals that have no compunction against using humans as dental floss. And that warning might last until that kid sees some Disney flick where a little boy makes friends with a giant talking bear. After that, the father would have to be sadistic if he brought his son to the zoo, because it’s only a matter of time before little Larry attempts to snuggle up to the baby bears, blocking them off from momma bear’s line of sight in doing so.

So start making a list. In one column called DANGEROUS, list things that can hurt and kill you. Then, in the next column called PRONOUNCED SAFE BY KIDS MOVIES, research every children’s flick you can get your hands on and refute every item in the dangerous column. We see that the end result of years of children cinema brainwashing are kids that fear nothing, and become targets for everything. God forbid that we perfect time travel in our lifetime, because these kids are going to want to go back to the Jurassic era and make a dinosaur their playmate. I mean, why don’t filmmakers go the full mile and portray serial killers as cute and cuddly individuals whose only crime is that they don’t get the best musical numbers? Or show a little girl on screen who’s best friend is a woodchipper? Dummies.

I think that one of the most important survival traits I want my kids to have is to hang onto is Fear Anything That Comes Out Of Your Closet, Or From Under Your Bed. I’m not saying that, in my lifetime, anything has come out of my closet or from under my bed (except that one time in college, and that was a sophomoric prank that I shall not stoop to repeating in detail here). But if I had a child and something did pop out of his or her closet, I would want them to scream their bloody heads off and run away, not jump up and down with glee that “Sully” was there to “whisk them away” to a magical playland.

Common sense. Survival instinct. You see what I’m saying.

So Monsters Inc. takes our age-old fears of things that go bump in the night and basically makes them cuter and cuddlier than Elmo. Aside from the potential lawsuits from dumb parents that had kids taking this film as their personal holy grail, I can see it as kinda captivating. It’s certainly an ingenious twist, having the monsters being terrified of a wee li’l lass, who pops through one of their nightmare doors and wreaks havoc on the monster world. Yet, I don’t think the producers did enough homework on the subject of nightmares here. When I was a kid, my nightmares were a little bit more terrifying than a fuzzy blue Muppet voiced by John Goodman. I had one nightmare that involved witches and ritual beheadings that I’ve never forgotten, and it’s false advertising not to properly portray similar bedwetting (not that I did) emotions in this film.

I saw this movie with my old girlfriend, who was laughing with me for ten minutes into the film. Then, from minute eleven on, I was pretty much the only laugher; this is because she fell dead asleep, despite claiming afterward that the part of the movie she saw was “very, very funny!” At least she’ll have a fighting chance, when the bed monsters come to get her.

Didja notice?

  • A “Disney” movie with no musical numbers! Huzzah, I like this new direction. Not every flick they make requires singing teacups.
  • When the chameleonlike Randall (Steve Buscemi) runs into Sully, his skin turns blue and purple to match.
  • As is rapidly becoming tradition for CGI pictures, there’s an “outtake reel” during the credits which is worth staying for.
  • Boo has a Cowgirl Jessie doll in her room.
  • According to the credits, no monsters were harmed in the making of this film.
  • The Snowman describes the children in the Himalayan village as “Tough kids, sissy kids, kids who climb on rocks,” a line taken from an old jingle for Armor hot dogs.
  • In the opening scene when Mike and Sully are walking to work, the coffee shop they pass offers Espresso, Cappuccino and Diesel.
  • When Boo pulls on the stacked DVDs in Sullivan’s apartment and they all come falling down, the DVD she’s holding can be seen to be A Bug’s Life.
  • In one scene, Randall Boggs, voiced by Steve Buscemi, threatens to thrust a co-worker into a woodchipper. Buscemi’s character Carl Showalter in Fargo, was stuffed into a woodchipper by his partner in crime.
  • In the scene where Sully takes Boo home and puts her to bed, among the toys she has is a squeeky clownfish that looks just like Nemo. (Thanks Yodleboy!)

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