Saturday, March 12, 2016

Let’s Review a Movie: Monster INC. (2001)



So this film was considered good enough to earn a sequel, but does it really hold up after all these years?



The idea of scaring children being a job isn’t new, I remember an old episode of Tiny Toon Adventures that did it, but because this is a feature length movie that really allows the creators time to explore the world and the concept.  They do that too by building an entire business around the idea.  I love all the innovation that went into this.  The way the doors work to get into the child’s bedroom.  That the screams are used as a source of energy it’s really quite inventive.  The fact that they think children are actually toxic is also a fun idea because it adds another layer to the story rather than it just being about kids that grow too old to believe in monsters.  It has that otherwise our villains Randell and Waternoose would have nothing to do, but the inclusion of that gives this its own spin.  Not only in things like the 2319 running gag, but I think it can serve as nice message to children about the idea that something you are scared of might be just as scared of you as you are of it.  It also makes for some great gags as Mike tries to handle her with oven mits and sprays himself in the eye with peroxide.

I love all the monster designs and I love the shout to the man who inspired it Ray HarryHausen the man who designed the old stop motion animated monsters and other creatures for film classics like Jason and the Argonauts.  The restaurant the Mike and Celia go to is named for him.

Boo is adorable and acts like a kid instead of having some cuties lisp or not speaking at all.  It’s a bit of both and it’s nice.  The relationship between her and Sully works and Mike’s resentment of Boo works as well.  Sully spent more time with Boo so of course he started to understand her and grow more attached.  For Mike Boo is just the kid who has been ruining their lives starting with his date with Celia.  It’s easy to understand why he is upset when they are banished and Sully is still only worried about Boo.  In that moment Mikes knows that their lives that they had been spending all that time trying to put right is wasted and doesn’t get why Sully even still cares about Boo at that point.  Getting Boo back home won’t help anyone except her, and that’s all Sully cares about. 

The relationship between Mike and Sully before that scene is really good with them being great friends and co-workers.  What’s really fun about Mike is that he is a second banana that is not the least bit jealous of Sully or resentful of his place in their partnership.  Instead he is totally content with it.  He knows his job and he does it well, and his reactions to the TV commercial and the magazine cover are hilarious.  Sully is also great, because him being this big sacary guy is just a job to him.  He really is a softie at heart not even just that he comes to caring for Boo, but also the way he covers for Mike so he can go on his anniversary date with Celia.  He clearly cares about others and when he scares Boo performing his roar for Waternoose and the trainees he realizes that to the kids this is terrifying to them in a harmful way, because to them tis not pretend as it is to him.  Sully is acting when he scares, but the kids of course don’t know that.

The side characters are great here too.  I love Ross and her reveal as Number One.  Celia is spunky and fun and I love the part where once she learns about what Mike and Sully are doing she immediately is on board with it and helps them get away from Randell with her announcement.

The animation of course is top notch.  I love the way Sullly's fur moves, I love the detail of Randall's scales, the lighting, I love the opening credits! 

The only thing that really bugs me in the film is that I don’t get why Randell is worried about his numbers on the scare floor when he was already planning take Boo that same night for his scream extraction machine that is already built.  His numbers shouldn’t mean anything.  Of course if we don’t have that then Randell isn’t established as a villain and rival and then the red herring of him cheating doesn’t work.  So I get why it’s there and I’ll just assume that Randell is keeping up his act so as not to arouse suspicion. 

So to answer the question posed at the beginning of the review, does it still hold up?  Yeah I think it does.  While the premise isn’t new the time they take to develop the world and the characters is.  I love the character designs and that they are developed.  Mike doesn’t get angry about being a second banana like we might expect, but instead about change that he can’t control really.  Sully really is a giant kitty the way he cares about others and their feelings and because he does he realizes his job hurts others.  The world is unique with things like the fact that children are considered toxic and the screams the monsters get are used for energy.  The animation is great, sets like the storage warehouse for the doors look amazing, and finally we have a kid character that isn’t obnoxious.  A good story, told in a fun world, with likeable characters, three things I truly enjoy seeing.  Now as for the sequel…well we’ll get to that.

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