Monsters, Inc.

  • Characters nicer than they were in "Shrek"
  • Less Smut than there was in "Shrek"
  • No Michael Eisner Penis-Issues, Like in "Shrek"


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Brought to you by the Folks at Pixar. "So, Steve Martin wasn't that good. I mean, I'm sure they'll ask me back next year. I can't stand to do anymore of these halfcocked benefit concerts."
Monsters, Inc. is a lot like Shrek, except it doesn't Suck.

As I drove my windowless van down to the local multiplex, I prayed to the Movie Gods that Monsters, Inc. wouldn't suck. I wanted it to be cool and hip; which were the exact terms several mental midgets used to justify this year's big hit, Shrek. That film also features a big green monster and was filmed using computer animation by the mental midgets at Dreamworks SKG. Shrek also had lots of poop jokes and made several remarks regarding Snow White's promiscuity, Michael Eisner's penis, and included a pronunciation of one characters name that sounded a little too close to "Fuckwad" for most PG-rated family films. It also had a general mean spirited feel that left me feeling queasy but apparently went unnoticed by the masses. But once Monsters, Inc. started, I sat in the back row of the auditorium wearing my black stocking cap and also sporting a large grin on my face. This film was imaginative, it was hip, and it actually relied on character development instead of tired pop culture references like some other computer animated films I've seen this year.

The story is set in Monstropolis and it is populated exclusively by monsters. They all have very interesting characteristics and quirks; especially the ones in the background. The characters in the forefront are Mike Kowolski (voiced by Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman). They both work at Monsters, Inc. which is the big energy monopoly on town. It turns out that Montropolis derives energy from the screams of young children. The company does this by sending specially-trained monsters into the bedrooms of children to obtain this resource. Sully is the best guy in the business but starts to become undone when he becomes closely attached to a girl that has accidental followed him from the real world into Monstropolis. He even gives her the loving nickname "Boo." This is a big problem since monsters are as scared of us as we are of them. Why are they so scared of us? May it be because they don't understand humans and would rather shy away than understand and appreciate.Will Sully and his sidekick Mike overcome xenophobia and learn of the true power of friendship? Will they overcome the evil, Dick Cheney-like head of the energy plant? Will Michael Eisner counterpoint any of the Eisner-penis jokes from Shrek with any Katzenberg-balding cracks?

I'll let you see it before I ruin any surprises because the film is really quite extraordinary. Like the other Pixar-produced films such as the Toy Story series or A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc. extracts the images and hang-ups of our childhood out of the collective conscious and into an entertaining story structure. I was somewhat surprised by the memories I conjured in the theater regarding the beasts and creatures that I swore came into my room when the lights went out. That was the same feeling I had when I watched Toy Story 2 and I could still remember the strain I went through to make sure all my toys got equal attention. There aren't many films that make me think about childhood in such a vivid way, and that's a great part of the magic of these pieces.I'm thinking maybe Pixar intends to focus on imaginary friends for their next project because I started to wonder how mine is doing. The stories aren't hurt by characters that are immensely likable yet flawed enough to where they feel real despite their fantastic surroundings. And those surroundings are a feast for the eyes. The images are so vividly realized and the creativity that goes into every frame is simply unbelievable.There is a scene towards the end of the film in a door-storage facility (Don't ask) that ranks as one of the most exciting action sequences I've ever seen. Monsters, Inc. is a film that can connect to the child (and childhood memories) with a visual style that makes it feel as real as anything created outside of a Intel Pentium.

And it's really funny. The characters say funny things and get into funny situations that do not involve bodily fluids or sexual innuendo. I'm still so stunned that people justified the jokes in Shrek as appropriate family fodder. A character says "Eat Me" and that won't affect children. It won't until they hear their parents laugh at the line and they start repeating it at the dinner table at Thanksgiving. Not to mention the fact that it's message of "Respect People for Who They Are" was totally undermined by all the short jokes made at Farquaad's expense. (I guess one can make jokes at the expense of their Eisner stand-ins.) Monsters, Inc. always remains aware of its message of friendship as the ultimate hope without letting its humor get in the way. Plus, it throws the subplot about the evil schmucks that run energy monopolies which is great for liberal lackeys like myself. I'll take that over wrestling gags and Smash Mouth songs anyday.

I really hope the reader does not walk away from this review thinking that I loved Monsters, Inc. just because I wanted to pummel Shrek. As a matter of fact, I could probably admit that Monsters, Inc's character development gets sidetracked towards the climax of the film and creatures who did not need to be redeemed in the first place learn their lessons and characters that needed to shape up get largely ignored. But at least it gives up real character arcs and situations that make the audience connect emotionally. Which is what Shrek did not do. But I've already written that review.  See, I've did that already back in the Dark Ages of Film Snobs or DAFB. (Also known as May 2001.) I wouldn't suggest reading it (Since I did write it in DAFB and therefore it's actual worse than some of the stuff I write now) but I would suggest seeing Monsters, Inc. because it is an exemplary work in pure fantasy story telling. Who knows: Maybe it could have used a few fart jokes.

Post-script: Monsters, Inc. is preceded by a short called For the Birds. It's a really funny and visually stunning look at the way some people end up getting the last laugh. It's a good bonus for everyone who is showing up early to catch the Star Wars: Episode II trailer.

The Pitch:
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2 Shrek
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2 Dick Cheney's
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4 Monsters, Inc.
See It For:
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Billy taking his Sammy Davis, Jr. Bit One Step Too Far.