Monsters Inc. (2002), Cert U.

Directors - Peter Docter & David Silverman.

Writers - Jill Culton & Robert L. Baird.

Starring - John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn & Jennifer Tilly.


Premise - Through the closet door of every child’s bedroom lays Monstropolis, a city populated by every imaginable kind of monster. Monsters Inc is the company that provides the power to the city, power which is generated by the screams of the children they scare. However, times are hard (kids are becoming more desensitised) and top scarer Sully (John Goodman) and his partner Mike (Billy Crystal) find their jobs in jeopardy. Things get worse when a child makes her way into Monstropolis causing mass panic as children as deadly to the touch for monsters..........

Monsters Inc is the latest movie from the people at Pixar. The company that pioneered CGI animation as a viable format for making motion pictures and have enthralled audiences around the world with the likes of 'Toy Story', 'Toy Story 2' and 'A Bugs Life'. Quite a pedigree to live up to and Monsters Inc does check all the boxes that made their previous films a success, but for my money the end product is somewhat lacking when compared to the standard that I know Pixar can produce.

That certain magical something that happens when Pixar and Disney put there heads together is missing and what we end up with, whilst not a horrible film is one that could have been so much better.

The movie starts out quite promising, with a nice introduction to the characters. We meet Mike and Sully and it is quickly established that Sully is the one gaining all the popularity and Mike is quite happy with that. Mike is essentially a comedy sidekick, one of my most hated movie clichés. We see Mike and Sully train and then go and carry out their work and its nice and actually fairly amusing in parts. There is some nice slapstick stuff involving Mike and things only get better when Randall shows up.

Randall is the 'baddie' of the piece and is Sully's main competition for the title of top scarer. He is deliciously evil and is hands down my favorite character in the film. His underhand tactics as he attempts to usurp Sully are highlights of the film and as the movie goes forward he is established nicely as a credible villain.

We also get to meet a procession of peripheral characters that flesh out the Monsters Inc universe. This is one of the things that Pixar is really good at, creating a believable environment and populating it with believable characters no matter what the setting, be it toy box, ant hill or monster city. There are some good laughs to be had at the various characters we see, from surly receptionists to incompetent janitors, each has a different personality and it really make Monstropolis seem like a real place.

A big factor in the success of these animated films is the quality of the voice talent that the studio manages to attract. This being a Pixar film the cast is suitable impressive with the likes of James Coburn, Frank Oz and Jennifer Tilly in supporting roles. Taking the lead role of Sully is John Goodman, an actor I really like and that has made some damn good films in his career. His work with the Coen's is legend and his comic timing is spot on. He is perfect as Sully, the big lug with a heart of gold. Goodman's syrupy voice booms out of Sully and it just feels 'right'.

The part of Mike is a different story. I don't like Billy Crystal never have, never will. His very presence in a movie is enough for me to avoid it like the plague. He stunk out 'Analyse This' and I dread to see what they have done for the sequel. For me Crystal is a one note actor who has varying versions of one character. I thought I could handle him in this film, but even his voice was irritating me. Perhaps I'm biased, but the film suffered purely because of Crystal’s presence form where I was sitting.

Luckily for me then that the third lead is played by one of my favorite supporting players, Steve Buscemi. Buscemi has spent his career playing less than desirable lowlifes, with a knack for using underhand tactics to get what they want. Perfect casting then, for the role of Randall. Monsters Inc is another feather in the cap for Mr. Buscemi, of one of modern cinemas most versatile actors.

So the cast is (mostly) good and the world that Pixar has created is as rich and alive as any of the others from their previous work, so what's the problem?

Well, put simply, as the film moves further along it starts to become less and less enjoyable. Like so many children’s films, Monsters Inc begins to concentrate more on moral messages and trite, doomed relationships whose sole purpose is to get a bunch of kids crying in the theater. Here you have Sully and the kid that comes through the closet door Boo (as Sully names her). The two grow inseparable and the writing is on the wall for a formulaic ending which will involve Boo returning to her home and leaving Sully, pass the tissues.......

Also for your money you get the standard friends falling out and making up just in the nick of time angle that we have seen a million times before in a million different kids films. Is really that hard for a kid’s film to be made that isn't dripping with clichés? Well, yes, it is. Lilo & Stitch managed this seemingly impossible feat and for my money is the better film of the two.

Also as far as CGI animation has come since is creation it still can't compete with traditional animation as far as creating a feel in a movie. CGI is still at a stage where it feels clinical and cold, for all the hairs on Sully's body they still can't imbue a feeling of warmth into a CGI movie the way a hand drawn animator can. Lilo & Stitch may have been 'old skool' as far as animation techniques go, but it came across much better than the stark CGI animation that Pixar creates.

The fist half of Monsters Inc is a good, funny, enjoyable family film, but inevitably the clichés come flooding thick and fast and dominate the film to the point of despair. A fine film for the kiddies I'm sure, but adults may want to look elsewhere for a film that is truly 'for all the family'.



See Monsters Inc. if you enjoyed - Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bugs Life.

Poster Quote - Put it back in the closet.