Monsters, Inc



USA 2001
director : Pete Docter (with Lee Unkrich, David Silverman)
script : Andrew Stanton, Daniel Gerson (story by Docter, Jill Culton, Jeff Pidgeon, Ralph Eggleston)
producers include : John Lasseter
CGI animation – production designers Harley Jessup, Bob Pauley; art directors Tia W Kratter, Dominique Louis
editing : Jim Stewart
music : Randy Newman
lead actors (voices) : John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, Mary Gibbs
with (voices) : James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Bob Peterson
92 minutes

Monsters, Inc looks set to join Shrek and Waking Life on the short-list for the first-ever ‘Best Animated Feature’ Oscar – and it’s easily the least of the trio. Even Final Fantasy, for all its faults, would have been more deserving of a nomination, if only it hadn’t been such a spectacular belly-flop at the box office. But Monsters has steamrollered its way to $250m in the US alone – and for many Academy voters it would be a very strange thing indeed if the first set of nominations for the long-overdue new award didn’t include a representative of the Disney stable.

Monsters is the fourth feature product from the Mouse House’s Pixar wing, and their fourth consecutive cash cow after the two Toy Story movies and A Bug’s Life. But while those three, like Shrek, appealed to adults at least as much a kids, Monsters aims more squarely at the youth market. Under-tens will be entranced by the gaudy colours, weirdly shaped ‘characters’ and fast pace. Over-tens will laugh every now and again, but they’ll probably spend at least as long checking their watch.

The problem is that, while the basic idea – monsters exist in a parallel world powered by the energy from children’s screams – is OK for starters, it just isn’t developed very well. Not enough happens – it’s like a half-hour sketch uncomfortably stretched to feature length, and surely a few more scenes could have taken place outside the restrictive confines of the ‘Monsters, Inc.’ factory. The whole critters-as-ordinary-workers angle is a fairly limp variation on the far-superior Antz, which was, ironically enough, Dreamworks’ attempt to steal box-office thunder from A Bug’s Life.

It’s the characterisations (or some of them) that keep it watchable: Goodman’s bear-like ‘top scarer’ Sully is an endearing hulk and Buscemi is clearly having a great time as his reptilian rival Randall, though the real scene-stealer is Peterson’s terminally unimpressed, Jabba-the-Hutt-lookalike office-manager Ros. But what a blunder to make the only ‘human’ on show a young infant girl Sully calls ‘Boo’ (Gibbs) – her pre-verbal goo-goo-gaa-gaa repertoire rapidly outstays its welcome. Likewise, Crystal is allowed way too much latitude as Sully’s pal Mike – it’s typical of the film that, despite being a green one-eyed monster, he isn’t ‘jealous’ at all, this trait residing squarely in Buscemi’s scheming Randall. Back to the drawing board, lads.

2nd February, 2002
(seen Jan-30-02, Warner Village, Newcastle)

by Neil Young
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