Directed by Lee Unkrich, David Silverman, Peter Docter. Voices by Billy Crystal, John Goodman, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Steve Buscemi, Bonnie Hunt. (2001, G, 92 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 2, 2001
It's almost beyond the point to say that this new collaboration between animation behemoths Disney and Pixar is wildly entertaining; what else could it be? What is interesting and what adults will find doubly fascinating (maybe even unsettling) is the film's plot, doubtless conceived years before our present domestic upheaval began generating rampant bio-paranoia, which revolves around the fear held by the monsters in our closets of becoming “contaminated” by articles of kidhood like dirty socks and whatnot. Decontamination squads leap out of the walls with SWAT-team precision every time a beasty returns soiled from a mission to scare the bejeezus out of a tot (screams = energy to the power company in Monstropolis), and monster trainees are tested endlessly to make sure they master a hands- (or claws/tentacles/feelers-) off policy to their yelping victims. There's no animosity between the inhabitants of the monster world and our world, though, and, in fact, the film's giddy conceit is that these multilimbed creepies are -- just like your parents told you! -- more frightened of us than we are of them. Goodman voices the loping furball Sculley, the best and brightest (well, best) of the monster-scarers -- he's been Monster of the Month for a year or more running, and is aided by his pal/assistant, the un-horrifically-named Mike Wazowski (Crystal). Up against a scheming and duplicitous co-worker -- Buscemi's slimy, reptilian Randall -- Sculley and Mike accidentally allow a child to slip into their world, and spend the rest of the film trying to cover their tracks and return the gurgling 2-year-old (nicknamed “Boo”) to her rightful bedroom. She doesn't want to go back, though, and instead of finding Sculley a scary bugbear, she mistakes him for an oversized feline and spends the duration of the film calling him “kitty” and crawling all over his shaggy bulk. Monsters, Inc. is far more restrained than other recent animated outings like Shrek, which was almost too ironic for its own good. The animation -- bright primaries and gobs of pinks and baby blues -- is, as expected, top-notch CG, and the spirited interplay between Goodman and Crystal is both wacky and, dare I say, charming. Maybe it's the tenor of the times that had me choking back a droplet at film's end (or, more likely, dirty contacts and that awful, dry theatre air), but Monsters, Inc. struck me somewhat less as a go-for-broke animation overload than a funky little tone poem on the nature of friendship and reconciliation, with monsters. Or maybe I'm just getting soft.