After achieving critical and financial success with “Toy Story 2,” Pixar’s momentum only continued with their next big hit, “Monsters Inc.” Upon initial release, Pixar’s fourth motion picture was met with near-universal praise by audiences and critics.
Despite not owning it on DVD or video for the majority of my childhood, this is a movie that I grew up with. It was commonly streamed on Disney Channel and my family and I always enjoyed watching whenever it was on.
“Monsters Inc.” remains one of my favorite films in the Pixar library, but does that mean it’s on par with its Pixar counterparts like “Toy Story” or “Finding Nemo?”
Our story centers around two monsters named Sully (John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal). They live in a colorful world completely populated by monsters and work for an energy company called Monsters Incorporated.
As it turns out, the main source of power in the monster world is the scream of a human child. So the Monsters at Monsters Inc. must collect children’s screams by coming out of their closets at night and scaring them, thus putting a clever spin on the childhood fear of monsters in the closet.
However, the catch is the monsters are instructed not to make any physical contact with a human child, believing them to be toxic and that a single touch could kill them.
So naturally, the factory, as well as the whole city of Monstropolis, is sent into disarray when a little girl accidentally wanders through her closet and into the monster world. The girl is discovered by Sully who attempts to rid himself of her, fearing for his life and job.
After a chaotic incident at a Chinese restaurant, Mike and Sully find themselves attempting to rid the monster world of the “dangerous” child in secret rather than alerting the authorities looking for her, (cause in a world where monsters are banished from the monster universe for small-time offenses, I guess that makes sense).
However, after hours of babysitting and discovering the identity of the monster who comes through her closet, they come to the conclusion that she is not as dangerous as their society perceives her and may be connected to a larger conspiracy.
Nevertheless, they are determined to return her home before the rest of the monster world finds her.
Now many people often ignore this but monsters scaring kids as a job is nothing new. We’ve seen this concept before on shows like “Ahh Real Monsters,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can’t still be enjoyable as long as it’s capable of adding something more.
Luckily “Monsters Inc.,” much like its predecessors, showcases Pixar’s writing team’s ability to bestow a fresh take upon a fairly overused concept.
However, unlike its predecessors, the characters of this movie are rather hit or miss. John Goodman and Billy Crystal are both likable characters and together make for an enjoyable onscreen duo.
However, their relationship isn’t as fleshed out as Woody and Buzz. They go through the whole “break apart and reconcile” story trope and nothing new is added aside from them being monsters.
Unfortunately, the clichés don’t stop there. Aside from Boo, Mike, Sully and Roz (AKA the funniest thing in this movie), all the other characters simply underwhelm.
Mike’s girlfriend Celia (Jennifer Tilly) isn’t given much focus. The villains, while creatively designed, are incredibly weak and lack depth and the whole conspiracy involving the child and the energy crisis is rather complicated for a story with such simple characters.
I must stress, these characters aren’t necessarily bad. They possess creative designs and are acted well. But aside from Sully, Mike and Boo, none truly stood out like in “Toy Story” or “Finding Nemo” (except for Roz who is among Pixar’s greatest side-characters).
However, what really works in Monster’s Inc. is the relationship between Sully and Boo. The idea of this massive, blue and purple, bear-like creature being utterly terrified of a squealing little girl is funny and creative and the emotional connection they share is very unique and feels truly genuine.
I don’t cry at movies but at the end when Sully tells her “Kitty has to go,” my eyes grew slightly moist.
So while I don’t believe “Monsters Inc.” is necessarily a masterpiece like “Toy Story 2,” it remains packed with enough heart and humor to make for an enjoyable experience that’s worth watching more than once.
Samuel J. Claude