A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 184 – Monsters Inc.

Monsters Inc. – August 31st, 2010

I’m going to lay this out at the start: I don’t think I have a heck of a lot to say about this movie. Sure, it was cute. It’s a Pixar movie. I think I’ve made my feelings about Pixar rather clear. They make cute movies that tug at heartstrings. It is their bread and butter and they do it incomparably well. Go back and take a look at my Finding Nemo review if you want to know what I have to say about Pixar. They’re great, okay? The thing is, where some of their other movies, such as the Toy Story trilogy and Finding Nemo and certainly Up are all very clearly sending Important Messages About Things Like Growing Up, this one? Not so much. It’s just fun.

Not that that’s a bad thing. It’s funny. I won’t dispute for a moment that watching big scary monsters freak out about a toddler is funny. It is. And I’ve met kids like Boo. I work with kids like Boo. That disappearing trick she does where she’s through the door before you know it? Yeah, that’s a half-hourly occurrence at my workplace, if not more frequent. Don’t for one second think that’s an exaggeration, people. Kids can teleport. I’m sure of it. So yeah, it’s funny. The whole movie is based on the gimmick of monsters both needing to scare kids for their power source (screams being somewhat potent, apparently) but being terrified of them themselves. That’s for laughs. Oh, I’m sure one could try and build parallels between the “scream shortage” in this movie and fuel supplies here in the real world, but let’s face it, beyond it being a joke for adults to laugh at? There’s not much there to connect. It’s all on the surface. It’s for shits and giggles.

The movie is really one long gag. From the start, when we meet Mike and Sully – Monsters Inc.’s top scare team, pulling in more scream-power than anyone else at the company – we’re meant to get the joke. Every monster they pass on the street on the way to work, every comment they make, everything that builds the whole alternate world of monsters, is a joke based on the world we live in. And as soon as a little girl, Boo, makes it into that world? It’s a joke. Even the tension of Sully’s competition, Randall, and his plan to use Boo to end the scream shortage? Well, it’s not that tense. Or it wasn’t for me. Of course Sully and Mike will save the day, right? Right. The chase scene through all the bedroom doors in the factory? Fantastic Escher-esque stuff. But not terribly tense. It’s fun! It’s a joke! For every five seconds of tension there are ten of laughs. The ending is, literally, built out of jokes. Jokes within jokes.

Like I said, it isn’t a bad thing that the movie is in it for the laughs. It succeeds admirably at what it set out to do, which is, I believe, to give both adults and kids something to enjoy. I’m sure most adults who either have kids or have ever been left in charge of one can recognize pretty much everything Boo does, and the monster-in-the-closet thing is pretty pervasive. And for the kids there are funny looking monsters who are scared of humans. There are great voices like John Goodman as Sully, Billy Crystal as Mike, Steve Buscemi as Randall, and Frank Oz as Fungus, to name just a few. The monsters are expressive, the world is well built, the jokes are funny and what’s not to like, right? Right!

Really, when you come down to it, there doesn’t need to be any more tension than there already is. Sure, it’s tempered by laughs and all, but that works for the overall mood of the movie. If it was too scary, it would sort of defeat the point, you know? Really, I’ve got nothing negative to say about it. I’ve just not got anything super deep to say about it either.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Monsters, Inc.

August 31, 2010

Monsters, Inc.

When this movie came out I was concerned about Pixar. I had been disappointed by Bug’s Life, and I thought that Pixar was descending into a lesser level of Disney-style film making. For all I knew at the time Toy Story was a fluke, and from here on out the films of Pixar would be technically fun to look at but wouldn’t have any of the emotional clout or creative spark that made Toy Story so much fun. This movie, therefore, surprised and delighted me and reassured me that Pixar really was something special.

Monsters, Inc. is one of the most original stories I can think of for a feature length animated film. It tells of a universe near ours where all the monsters who live in our childhood closets come from. These monsters aren’t bad folks. They need to scare children because the screams of kids are used to power everything in the monster world. So there are highly trained professional “scarers” who burst through closet doors and terrify children. The most successful and driven of all these monsters is Sully, a big furry purple teddy bear with horns. With his partner Mike (a round green creature who is mostly a single huge eyeball) Sully is on the verge of breaking the all time scream record.

The irony is that the monsters of Monstropolis are terrified of children. They think that children are toxic and can kill a monster with a single touch. So the action of the movie really gets going when a little girl is accidentally let into the monster world one evening. Sully ends up trying to conceal her and the first half of the movie involves his and Mike’s attempts to get her back through her closet door to her own bedroom. But there’s more going on than just a lost girl. There’s a nefarious plot, an evil monster, and a scream shortage brought on by the jaded and unflappable kids of today.

Really this movie is a showpiece for what Pixar does best. It’s full of technical wizardry and impressive computer graphics, and it has a creative and at times touching plot. It tugs at the heart-strings in a very Pixar way (such as when Sully begins to realize just how his profession makes him appear to the children he scares.) It also has one of the greatest chase scenes in a film with the fantastic door-room scene near the end of the film.

I love the performances from John Goodman and Billy Crystal. I love that the film makes got Frank Oz and Steve Buscemi involved in the project. I love that the animators were able to rise to the challenge of making these strange monsters seem so human. Especially impressive is the performance they get from Mike – it must have been really hard to get an emotional performance out of a giant green eyeball. They “cheat” a little with his extremely expressive brow, but it’s a fantastic feat of animation nonetheless.

Pixar showed me once and for all with this movie that as a company they had more up their sleeve than just Toy Story. They proved that they were the modern masters of CGI and that they could create entire worlds in the name of entertainment. I won’t say that this film changed my life or anything, but it’s a good movie with a kind heart and a creative premise. It was enough to cement the name of Pixar as a film studio to be watched, and as I look back on it they have only gotten better as the years have gone by. I look forward to seeing what else they have in store.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment