Thursday, December 27, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Monsters, Inc. (2001)

I had a grand time today going to see the reissued MONSTERS, INC., which I had missed seeing on a big screen when it was originally released in 2001.

Although it's playing in many theaters in 3D, I was happy to see MONSTERS, INC., in its original 2D version. MONSTERS, INC., is at the top of my list of favorites from Disney-Pixar, along with the TOY STORY trilogy and THE INCREDIBLES (2004).

The story, for those who might not have caught up with it yet, concerns a city of monsters -- named Monstropolis, of course! -- which has its energy powered by the screams of human children scared by monsters. "Sulley" (John Goodman), a big furry blue monster, is a champion scarer, aided by his best friend, one-eyed Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal). The monsters are really very nice guys at heart, they just need to unleash the children's screams to prevent an energy crisis!

Problems arise when a little girl, nicknamed Boo (Mary Gibbs) by Sulley, gets through her closet door into Monstropolis -- you see, children are considered toxic to monsters! Not to mention there's the problem that Boo needs to get back to her own home, which is easier said than done thanks to the monsters' unique "doorways" into the human world. The incident also provides Sulley's arch-rival Randall (Steve Buscemi) a chance to try to knock Sulley out of work...or worse.

MONSTERS, INC., is quite original and creative, and I particularly like that although it's a family movie, much of the humor is best appreciated by adults. I also especially like that unlike some other Disney and/or Pixar movies, this movie maintains a light touch and avoids the darkness which marred Pixar's WALL-E (2008) and UP (2009). One might think a little girl being separated from her family could be disturbing, but her joyous delight in "KITTY!" and Sulley's care for her prevent any problems in that regard.

The movie also has real heart, depicted in Sulley's relationships with Boo and his best pal Mike. Sulley's parting from Boo tugs at the heartstrings, and the movie's final shot is a lovely emotional payoff.

I love the sly little tributes scattered throughout the film, my favorite being that the monsters' favorite restaurant is named Harryhausen's. The six-legged octopus working in the restaurant is a tribute to Harryhausen's "sexapus" in IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955), a joke I could really appreciate since I saw that movie for the first time this year!

The Pizza Planet truck from TOY STORY (1995) has a cameo, as do Nemo, TOY STORY's Jessie, and a ball from the Pixar short LUXO, JR. (1986). Watch closely for Disneyland attraction posters, such as the Tomorrowland poster glimpsed in a little boy's bedroom. And the Hidden City Cafe is based on a real restaurant where Pixar employees dreamed up some of their early projects.

The voice of Sulley and Mike's employer, Henry J. Waternoose, was familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. It was fun to be reminded by the end credits that it was the voice of James Coburn. I felt a bit as though I came full circle on his movies this year, having seen one of his very earliest films, RIDE LONESOME (1959), last summer and now seeing one of his last films today.

Pixar's "good luck charm," John Ratzenberger, voices the Abominable Snowman. Jennifer Tilly is Mike's girlfriend, Celia. Frank Oz and Bonnie Hunt are among the large voice cast; Hunt has worked on several Pixar films, including A BUG'S LIFE (1998), CARS (2006), and TOY STORY 3 (2010).

This 92-minute movie was directed by Pete Docter, David Silverman, and Lee Unkrich.

Parental advisory: This movie is rated G. There are a couple brief moments of bathroom-type humor which I would not have chosen to include, but otherwise the film is family-friendly at all times.

The movie was preceded by a brilliant college "commercial" for the upcoming prequel MONSTERS UNIVERSITY (2013); the trailer emulates the type of college promos aired during football games on TV. The commercial and university website are really wonderful pieces of marketing!

MONSTERS, INC., was also preceded by Pixar's amusing short FOR THE BIRDS (2000). The score of this wordless computer-animated cartoon was by Riders in the Sky, who also appeared on the soundtrack of TOY STORY 2 (1995) singing "Woody's Roundup."

MONSTERS, INC., has been released on DVD in several different editions, as well as on Blu-ray. The DVD can be rented from Netflix.

It also had a release on VHS.

Other Disney films seen on a big screen and reviewed here in 2012: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955), IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1962), CINDERELLA (1950), and WRECK-IT RALPH (2012).


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

The most adorable and brilliant movie Pixar ever made. What a treat for you to see it on the big screen.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Isn't it a charmer? So glad to know you enjoy it too!

Best wishes,

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember loving this - there were also some great trailers for it with footage which wasn't actually in the movie! Looking forward to the sequel, though my kids are now grown-up! Judy

2:23 AM  

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