Well, well. Pixar has re-rolled out Monsters, Inc. in headache inducing 3-D not only for nostalgia’s sake but also to prepare the globe for next year’s release of Monsters University. Even though this is obviously a cash grab and a blatant exercise in franchise promotion, it’s hard to complain too much since this movie is better than the rest of children’s movies in theaters today. In retrospect, Monsters, Inc. is still as perfectly lovely and heartwarming as it seemed in 2001, yet it lacks the innovation and depth of some of Pixar’s most recent fare such as Up. Let’s be honest here though — this movie ushers in a great feeling of nostalgia for many of us, and it’s a movie that we can be proud to admit enjoying even though our children have repeatedly watched this movie while rolling their toys around the living room for us to trip over in the middle of the night. This film is also a good match for the holiday spirit without being overtly Christmas-y, and the high-concept, low-execution aspect (again, relative to Pixar’s body of work) of the narrative certainly isn’t the worst way to spend a few hours with the kidlets.
Here’s a quick rehash for anyone who hasn’t seen Monsters, Inc.: Monsters really do exist, and they are very dependent upon the human world. Scaring kids is a business and a means to power the universe of Monstropolis. So a brave group of “Scarers” are regularly sent through portals that run through Earthling children’s bedroom closets to rustle up screams and thus provide some much needed energy for Monstropolis to thrive. All goes well until the children begin to grow jaded; and eventually, one of the children, Boo (Mary Gibbs), finds her way into the Scarefactory. All hell then breaks loose for much of the movie, but eventually the lead Scarer, Sulley (John Goodman), returns Boo safely to her bedroom with the help of his assistant, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), and Boo and Sulley begin to forge a very close bond. The adventures aren’t over yet though. Soon, a Scream Extractor must be evaded, an exile with a Yeti (John Ratzenberger) jumps into the mix, and Boo’s laughter begins to power Monstropolis in ways that screams could never seem to manage.
Naturally, the picture is (still) wonderfully rendered, and it’s amazing to reflect upon how Pixar’s 2001 animation technique holds up against the jarring nature of today’s 3-D circus. Sulley’s fur is still so impeccably rendered that it’s hard to believe (for a few moments, anyway) that he’s not about to step off the screen and beg for a scream or two. Also and for a movie about monsters, it’s surprisingly tot friendly. Monsters, Inc. displays a wonderful sense of momentum without becoming frenetic like so many other children’s movies are prone to do. Still, it’s essentially a cat-and-mouse chase sort of movie, and the film suffers from this malady in the sense that it doesn’t sustain the emotional depth of the rest of Pixar’s stable (save for Cars 2 and Brave, the latter of which I still have problems with to this date). Sure, there are moments between Sulley and Boo that will make you reach for a tissue, but it’s not nearly as an emotional endeavor as, say, Toy Story 3. And that’s just fine. Sometimes, it’s nice to watch a movie that won’t rot your kid’s mind out and might just be a little bit uplifting while entertaining all the same.
As always, Pixar has plucked up a wonderful voice cast to match its unrivaled visual prowess. Steve Buscemi wonderfully voices the villain Randall; and Crystal, Goodman, Jennifer Tilly, and James Coburn all pull off their roles quite well. Again, Monsters, Inc. not a movie that has a lot to offer an adult audience because the script does not contain an abundance of wry, wink-wink jokes that will go over children’s heads. Instead, this is a very simple, charming tale about the joys of being a child … and those of being a lovable monster too.
Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at Celebitchy.