Monsters, Inc. (2001) Movie Review

I’ve never been too fond of CGI animation. Sure, I enjoyed Toy Story, Shrek, and now Monsters, Inc., but I’ve just never been overly enthusiastic about seeing them. The simple reason is that I’ve never found anything especially interesting or dynamic about watching computer blocks acting human onscreen. The problem, I think, is that the CGI animation of today is so geared towards comedy that it’s next to impossible to feel anything for them once you’ve had your share of laughter and then left the theater. As was similarly the case with Shrek, there’s never anything solid you can take home with you. There’s nothing…special about them, or where they’re coming from, or where they took you while watching it.

I found Monsters, Inc., while being a good movie, to lack the heart and spirit of say, the 1988 Japanimation My Neighbor Totoro. Monsters, Inc. is yet another high-concept Pixar CGI animation in the vein of Toy Story and its sequel, and the just-released Shrek.

With Monsters, Inc., the concept is that there are real monsters and they live in a world parallel to our own. The monsters all work at a factory called Monsters, Inc., that hires them as “scarers” whose job it is to scare children. To achieve this, the company has magic doors that opens a doorway into children’s rooms via their closet (remember the last time your child complained that there were monsters in your closet?). Apparently every child in the world has a door that can be used by the monsters. Why do they do this? Because children’s fears, most notably their screams, can be processed into usable energy, the same energy that runs monster city.

It’s a good concept and a very creative one. Toy Story had the same idea — the concept was: toys really do come to life when their owners aren’t present. Oh, and Monsters, Inc. also explains why children’s socks keep going missing — it’s because the monsters coming through the closet doors accidentally take the socks with them.

The world of Monsters, Inc. is, like its concept, very creative in look. The monster world believes that humans, especially human children, are toxic, and can kill with a touch. Hence the irony that the monsters scaring the kids are actually even more scared of the kids themselves, which explains why once a kid gets over his fear, he can never be afraid again. Monsters, Inc. explains it this way: once a kid becomes immune to his personal monster (the one that keeps visiting his room to get his scare) the gateway to the kid’s room is destroyed because it’s become useless.

Now, I explain all this in a dry way, but the actual explanations done in the movie are actually very humorous. Everything is warped and you’re bound to laugh, or at least smile, at some of the goofy anti-children procedures. This includes an army of yellow-HAZMAT suit wearing SWAT team that jumps into action every time a child shows up in the monster world or a piece of the human world, say a sock, accidentally returns with a monster. It’s all very interesting and worth a silly grin.

While I found the idea behind the movie to be intriguing and excellently executed, more than half of the movie consists of an unrelenting chase. The chase is by the CDA, the Child Detection Agency (the monster world’s HAZMAT/SWAT team), as they try to locate a human child that’s come into the monster world, creating havoc because everyone is afraid of her. The child, nicknamed Boo, becomes attached to Monsters Inc.’s top scarer, a big blue monster name Sully and his partner, the one-eye (literally) Mikey.

The two reluctantly hides the human Boo because to be spotted with her will get them both canned and tossed in jail. Much of the movie’s 85 minute running time consists of the two friends running from the CDA and a rival monster name Randall. While the chase sequences are fun and often inventive, one can only stand so much of them until they become repetitive.

Fortunately, there are plenty of funny moments sprinkled throughout the movie. One involves the concept that monsters that break the monster world’s laws are banished to the human world. One of those banished monsters is the Abominable Snowman, another is Bigfoot, and still another is the Loch Ness Monster. When Sully and Mikey are caught and banished, the Abominable Snowman shows up and provides the movie’s funniest dialogues. Unfortunately, the scenes with Randall, the rival scarer, are dull and Randall is, quite literally, such a slimy villain that he becomes trite and boring after a while.

Ironically enough, for a G-rated comedy, the movie does have some genuinely scary moments for the younger crowds, mostly involving the human Boo being scared by various monsters. I’m not sure if some of the scenes were appropriate for youngsters under 5, but that’s just my opinion, and there has been little debate about this, so I assume no one has complained.

Monsters, Inc. doesn’t have nearly as much comedy as Shrek, or have more than one layer to its comedy, but it provides a couple of good laughs. Kids, I suppose, would enjoy all the chasing. As an adult, I was a little bored after a while.

Peter Docter, David Silverman, Lee Unkrich (director) / Robert L. Baird, Jill Culton, Peter Docter, Ralph Eggleston, Dan Gerson, Jeff Pidgeon (screenplay)
CAST: John Goodman …. Sulley
Billy Crystal …. Mike
Mary Gibbs …. Boo
Steve Buscemi …. Randall Boggs

Buy Monsters, Inc. on DVD