Looking back on… Monsters, Inc.

Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Directed by: Pete Docter and David Silverman

Starring: John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Mary Gibbs, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn
Written by Gavin
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logoWelcome to the world of Monsters, Inc., the leading company producing power for the citizens of Monstropolis, a city populated entirely by monsters. Here, on the Scare Floors, the terrified screams of children are collected and used to provide power to the city. There are monsters of all shapes, colours and sizes. The scarier the monster, the more screams they can extract from the poor little child. Every care has gone into matching the perfect monster to the target child for maximum efficacy. However, times have grown hard as the scream shortage, brought on by an increasing number of children no longer being scared of their monster, causes blackouts and failing power across the city.
monstersWe are introduced to our two main characters Mike Wazowski and James P (Sulley) Sullivan, voiced and brought to life superbly by Billy Crystal and John Goodman respectively. They are undoubtedly well matched; a perfect odd couple, brains and brawn, little and large, George and Lenny. They have a strong bond, built up by years of working together and ruling the Scare charts and life is good. Until……

One of Mike and Sulley’s co-workers, and their biggest rival, Randall hatches a plan to promote himself within the company by stealing a child and extracting their screams via machine instead of the tried and trusted method. But unfortunately Randall is sloppy and allows the little child to escape his clutches and is, fortunately, found by Sulley.

The developing bond between Sulley and the little child, called Boo, is wonderful to see. They grow ever closer as the film progresses, until the inevitable parting, which is a real wrench for Sulley. However, at the same time as this is happening, Mike and Sulley’s friendship is tested to the limit as their views on what to do with Boo are wildly different.

What follows is a wonderful series of visual humour, playing to the younger audience, mild threat and slapstick comedy as Sulley and Mike chase around and try to cover up or rescue Boo from the various scrapes that she is prone to getting into, all whilst trying to evade Randall, who is still trying to prove his new method.

The finale of the film is a wonderful sequence that involves an inventive chase, the balance swaying one way and then the other, with numerous twists to the story. When all’s said and done, an alternative source of energy is found, quite by happy accident the revolutionizes the power industry, but not before a truly heartfelt moment between Sulley and Boo.

As with most Disney Pixar films there is plenty in there to entertain the adults too. Homages to classic films aplenty (including ‘ET’ and ‘The Right Stuff’). My favourite has to be a great scene in which Mike takes his girlfriend, Celia, to a posh restaurant called Harryhausens. This is a direct reference to the late great Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion creator of the monsters from the films of my youth such as ‘The Golden Voyage of Sinbad’, ‘Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger’, ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ and ‘Clash of the Titans’). Boo escapes from Sulley’s confinement (a sports bag) and jumps onto the countertop in the restaurant and shouts “boo!” and scares all the monsters in a great reversal of the status quo.

Considering that this film was made in 2001, it doesn’t look too out of place compared to today’s films (‘Finding Dory’, ‘Inside Out’, ‘Zootropolis/Zootopia’), it just lacks a little of the polish, under closer inspection, that these later films have. However in terms of storytelling and emotional connection this film is right up there with the best of them.

Rating: 8 out of 10

 

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