Monday, December 10, 2012

Monsters, Inc. (2001) - Monsters, Monsters Everywhere!

Monsters, Inc. poster
"Monsters, Inc." (2001).

Pixar followed up its smash hit Toy Story 2 with "Monsters, Inc." (2001). The five had been in development for five years, and required several new processes to render its characters' fur and clothing realistically. The production was aided by the always reliable composer Randy Newman (Academy Award nomination here for Best Original Score, also nominated for a Grammy award, losing to "The Lord of the Rings"), and , , and helped Docter with the script. Top voice actors were enlisted, including John Goodman and Billy Crystal. The result of all that hard work was a breakthrough film and a financial bonanza.

Sulley and Mike Wazowski
Wazowski does the Hula in "Monsters, Inc." (2001).

Mr. Waternoose (James Coburn runs the power company in the city of Monstropolis. Power is generated by the screams of children out in the human world, but children also can be strapped into sadistic machines called "scream extractors" to generate power. The city is populated solely by monsters, and the power company accordingly is named Monsters, Inc.

James P. Sullivan sees Boo
It's a... it's a... it's a girl!

Two of the power company's employees, James P. Sullivan (Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Crystal), find a human baby girl (also animated) named "Boo" (Mary Gibbs). They have to find a way to get the baby back home before Mr. Waternoose and his henchmen kidnap the girl and hook her up to a scream extractor.

baby Boo in Monsters, Inc.
Isn't she cute?

Sulley is a giant blue furry monster with horns and purple spots. Mike is green with a round body  and only one eye. They face off against Waternoose's lizard assistant Randall (Steve  Buscemi) and Randall's go-fer Jeff Fungus (Frank Oz), a slug-like creature with a raspy voice.

baby Boo draws a picture of a monster in Monsters, Inc.
No, I'm serious, he looked like this!

The film is directed by Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich and David Silverman in an agreeable fashion. Adult can enjoy this as much as kids due to the frenetic pace and high-energy fun. The animation looks fabulous, with great detail even in the background of group shots. Bonnie Hunt (more famous for her role in Cars) as Flint (an obvious homage to James Coburn), John Ratzenbrger as The Abominable Snowman, John Goodman as Sulley (also in "Cars), Billy Crystal as Mike (ditto "Cars"), Frank Oz (Miss Piggy in "The Muppets"), and so on. That is not even to mention the headline stars: Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, and Buscemi. This was Coburn's only animated film, at least recently. If you are a film buff, getting the chance to hear a '60s icon like James Coburn voicing a spider-like monster with five eyes is a special treat.

the monsters of Monsters, Inc.
Where do you guys want to go for lunch?

There are a few things to know about the film before popping it in the Blue-ray player and assembling the family. The scream generator is kind of a scary concept, one which might leave you scratching your head as to who thought this one up for a children's movie. Not all the humor is accessible to children, who in places may have to just be content with watching weird monsters running around acting like people for their entertainment.

Receptionist, Mike and Sulley at Monster, Inc. headquarters
Celia Mae, played by Jennifer Tilly

Every monster seems to have weird eyes. Either they are big, or tiny; one, or five; always wide open, or lazily half-shut. Children will probably never get enough of that. It is the single biggest identifier between monsters. Look closely and you might see a brief appearance by Nemo of "Finding Nemo" on Boo's couch, though only as a stuffed toy.

Sulley and Mike driving a car in Monsters, Inc.
"I must have put on some weight, Mike. What do you think?"

A prequel to "Monsters, Inc." was released on June 21, 2013 called "Monsters University." Most of the voice actors returned, with Dan Scanlon directing. There is a series of video games, a "Disney on Ice" show, theme park attractions, even a manga version of the story distributed mostly in Japan. People love the monsters, and probably you will, too, so check out "Monsters, Inc."


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