Pixar-thon: Monsters Inc.

Welcome to part 4 of Pixar-thon, my 13 part mission to review the Disney Pixar movies. Tonight we learn a bit about the things that go bump in the night with Monsters Inc.

Have you ever wondered why monsters like to scare children? Or why they specifically hide in the closet? Well it turns out that in the monster world, children’s screams are a valuable energy source. Scaring them is their method of extracting their screams, and closets are their portals back and forth between the human world. Enter Mike and Sulley, two lifelong pals and employees of Monsters Inc., Monstropolis’s major energy supplier. Together they make the factory’s top tier scare team and the pride of the business. But Sulley puts his job, his life, and his world in great danger when he comes in contact with a human child who has escaped into the monster world.

Right off the bat, I absolutely love the concept of this movie. Even as a kid, I thought the idea of monsters scaring children as part of their 9 to 5 job was brilliant, but the way they set it up here is genius. I love their explanation for why they need screams, I love how they use the closets to get between worlds, I even love some of the complications that come with this energy source. If you’re a business major, I seriously suggest checking out this movie for some of your courses, especially business ethics. Aside from that, since this is a world inhabited by monsters, and monsters come in all shapes and sizes, it seemed the animators went a little crazy with the designs here. I also thought it was pretty funny that monsters are just as scared of children as they are of them. Just like the first Toy Story, Pixar wasn’t the first to use this concept, but they definitely took it further than their predecessors.

In terms of animation, I wouldn’t say this is Pixar’s best. Actually, it does look great as usual… 90% of the time. You see, Monsters Inc. suffers from what I like to call “Studio Gonzo Syndrome”. For the most part, the animation looks excellent. There were several moments where I found myself pausing just so I could look at every nuance of a single shot. There were times I could see every single solitary hair on Sulley’s body, or see every stitch on a piece of furniture in the background. But there are a few frames that I thought still needed work. When you have a movie where you can point out every detail like that, the parts that aren’t as polished become all the more noticeable.

Even though Pixar has proven themselves to be masters of emotional investment, Monsters Inc. didn’t do it that well for me. I mean sure, the friendship between Mike and Sulley is great and believable and Sulley’s love for Boo is really sweet, but the directions they took were a tad predictable and the final resolution was really cheesy. Of course this was when Pixar was still in the early years and was still finding that balance. Luckily, their next movie would perfectly nail the emotional aspect that they’re now known for. This was just paving the way.

The movie’s strong point, however, is in the comedy. This is probably Pixar’s funniest movie to date, or at least the one that puts the most emphasis on the comedy. There were a ton of gags that I found hilarious, the facial expressions are gold, and Billy Crystal and John Goodman work really well together. It loses a bit of the momentum when it takes a turn for the dramatic and doesn’t feel as strong when it goes back to laughs, but a lot of the humor that they played a lot with for the most part was quite entertaining.

So what it all comes down to is that Monsters Inc. works on a lot of levels. It works as a comedy, a business drama, a rescue adventure, and even though some of the emotional aspects didn’t really click with me, I’m sure it’ll give a few some of those warm fuzzies. But one small bump wasn’t enough to distract from the rest of the nails they hit, so I definitely give it a recommendation.

I give Monsters Inc. 8/10.

Four down, nine to go.

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