Monsters, Inc.
directed by Pete Docter
(Walt Disney/Pixar Animation, 2001)

Monsters, Inc. dazzlingly flew into theaters to vie for the first ever animation Oscar. The big cuddly blue-furred Sulley aims to topple the curmudgeonly green-hued Shrek as the best-drawn movie of the year. It's going to be a close race.

Monsters, Inc., the story of Monstropolis, which needs kids' screams for power and the “scarers” who brave the toxicity of children's rooms to gather the energy source, begins with a very clever concept. Frightening creatures who work for the power company, Monsters, Inc., hone their skills in training sessions and warm up their roars before venturing into the human world through a child's closet door. James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman), the many-times scarer of the year who is just about to topple the all-time scream record, accidentally allows a toddler to follow him back through the portal to the factory work floor. Chaos ensues when the company, governmental agencies and community become aware of this tiny, adorable "contaminant" loose in the city.

The animators at Pixar created hordes of not-so ferocious and very expressive monsters. Sulley's shrugs and his sidekick Mike's cyclopic eye convey more than is expected lately of actual live actors. The effects that give the villainous Randall chameleon-like blends and fades into invisibility are the most frightening in a film that generally demystifies monsterdom. And the tentacled CEO, Henry J. Waternoose, slithers forward with a convincing glide.

While the characters are crafted with delightfully diverse movements and personalities (especially Billy Crystal's Mike, who adores the snake-haired Celia), the Monsters, Inc. factory and the amazing closet door warehouse are even more spectacular. After you've gasped at the enormity and design details of all those doors zipping along the conveyors, the Pixar team steps up the action with an eye-popping chase scene.

Overall, Monsters, Inc. is a clever, fast-paced film for both children and the adults they bring along. There's enough cuteness and visual splendor to keep everyone entertained. If there are any weakness, it's that the characters are too soft and cuddly. There's none of the character depth and edginess that makes repeated visits to Shrek fun. (Although there are no exploding birds, the Pixar short preceding Monsters, Inc. does offer naked wings for your entertainment.)

These two contenders for the animation prize are both well worth the price of a ticket. And for storytelling and visual design, Monsters, Inc. and its ogre-loving opponent are both well ahead of the live-action competition this year.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]
Rambles: 24 November 2001

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