Monsters, Inc. (G)
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Well, this is one of Pixar's earlier films, having come out in 2001, though I didn't see it until 2009. I am generally of the opinion that Pixar is incapable of making a movie that doesn't rock, and this is no exception. (Of course there are several Pixar films that I still haven't seen, and possibly some I wouldn't care for much, but at the very least I am confident in saying they're incapable of making a movie that sucks. But probably my favorite Pixar movie will always be The Incredibles, which may very well be not just my favorite Pixar movie or favorite animated movie, but my favorite movie, period.) Anyway... while Monsters, Inc., isn't a favorite, and I can't quite say I love it, I definitely quite liked it.
Um... so anyway, here's the premise: There is this whole world of monsters, which seems pretty much just like our world, except the people are, you know, monsters. They come in all shapes and sizes. And all the power in the monster world comes from the screams of human children. So, there's this major company, Monsters, Inc., which employs "scarers," monsters who travel through doors into the bedrooms of children in the human world. Each scarer is partnered with, like, a technician or whatever, who brings up the doors and collects the screams in canisters. There is, however, currently a power shortage, caused by the fact that human children are getting harder to scare, these days.
The top scarer is James P. Sullivan (aka Sulley), whose partner and best friend is Mike Wazowski. (Sulley is voiced by John Goodman, and Mike is voiced by Billy Crystal, but throughout the film I kept thinking Mike sounded just like Nathan Lane.) Sulley is getting close to breaking the record for most scares, though another scarer, Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi), is pretty close, as well. So there's competition between them. But while Sulley is a pretty nice, easy-going guy, Randall is kinda evil. One night, Mike is going out on a date with his girlfriend Celia (Jennifer Tilly), a receptionist at the company, so Sulley stays behind to file the paperwork Mike forgot to file (for which he's always getting in trouble with Roz, the dispatch manager). When Sulley goes back to the scare floor, he finds a door there, when there should be none. And a young human girl (barely able to talk, she mostly giggles, and calls Sulley "Kitty") comes through. The reason the door was there at all is apparently because Randall, the monster assigned to scare her, has been sneaking through to somehow cheat in the contest.
I should mention that human children are believed to be toxic to monsters, so of course monsters are scared of them, and must never touch them. Oh, the irony. It is, of course, not true. So after a fair degree of initial panic, Sulley soon develops some affection for the girl, who he calls "Boo" (a word she is fond of saying). Mike is not at all pleased about any of this, for a number of reasons, but can't help getting caught up in... well, everything that's going on. The two of them want to try to return Boo to her world, but it's pretty complicated. For one thing, she's often wandering away. For another, there's the trouble of trying to find and access her door. All the doors to the human world are on a massive sort of intricate assembly line, each with its own pass card to call it up. And everything's further complicated by the general public becoming aware that there's a human child loose somewhere in Monstropolis, so the CDA (Child Detection Agency) is looking all over for her, so Mike and Sulley have to keep her hidden. Aside from that, it turns out that Randall's scheme is far more diabolical than it seemed at first, and leads to a great deal of trouble for Sulley and Mike.
I'd rather not say more than that about the plot, to avoid spoilers. But of course, the animation is very cool, and the movie can be pretty funny, sometimes surprising, as well as touching, and often very serious. There's alot I liked about it, though also some things that didn't make a lot of sense to me, though that didn't bother me. For example, it seemed like the way the doors normally work is... in a very specific way, and otherwise they shouldn't work, yet they did during a chase scene. Which was, btw, reminiscent of chases or other sorts of things I've seen elsewhere, in everything from Scooby-Doo to The Lost Room, to name just two (the latter of which first aired in 2006, so... I guess it doesn't count, even though I saw it before I saw this). Still, while perhaps a slightly cliched concept, it was done here with a certain originality, and of course it was highly entertaining. So... I'm willing to let slide the fact that it shouldn't have worked in the first place.
And, speaking of cliched concepts... well, there were any number of those in this movie. But I won't go into any of them, I'll just say that they worked here, they were done really well. After all, cliches become cliches for a reason; when done well, they can just make for a good story. When done really well, they can even seem original, and one can almost forget to think of them as cliches at all. I should also mention that an eventual solution for the energy crisis in Monstropolis was hinted at early, and continued to be hinted at a number of times before the conclusion was actually reached, but I found it entirely predictable, from the very first hint. So I was a bit impatient for realization to dawn on a character, but even so... it didn't bother me, waiting for it. And anyway, there were a number of concepts that were fairly original (I particularly liked the idea that certain legendary creatures we've all heard of were actually banished from the monster world to our world; the only one of these we actually see in the film is a Yeti, aka Abominable Snowman, voiced by John Ratzenberger, who is famous not only for playing Cliff on Cheers, but also for having at least a small part in every Pixar film). And, well, okay, I'll also mention one other cliche, which is to draw parallels between the fantastic and the ordinary, often specifically having magical or mythical stuff working in some way like an office, factory, the corporate world in general, or what have you. But it's a concept I've always enjoyed, and it's done here quite well indeed.
And, I guess that's about all I can think to say, for now, though I might add more later. But definitely a fun movie, which I look forward to watching again, eventually.... Oh, and the DVD has lots of good bonus features, including a couple of Pixar shorts. One of them, Mike's New Car, is related to this movie, and it's reasonably funny. The other, For the Birds, is not related to the movie, but it aired before the movie in theaters, and it's also funny. Aside from those things, the bonus features also include fun stuff like outtakes, some TV spots, and I especially liked an appearance Mike, Sulley, and Boo made on a Japanese show. And the history of the monster world. And... of course there's plenty of stuff I haven't watched. Whatever. DVDs are awesome.
In 2013 there was a prequel called Monsters University.