Monsters, Inc. Directed by Peter Docter, with Lee Unkrich and David Silverman Written by Andrew Stanton and Daniel Gerson Featuring the voices of John Goodman and Billy Crystal Classification: F Rating: **½
It had to happen. After three critical hits -- Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2 -- which collectively earned more than $1-billion (U.S.) in revenues, the animation team from Pixar has come down to earth. The result is their fourth film, the still visually impressive but quite ordinary kid's flick, Monsters, Inc.
This time the movie's biggest achievement is its imaginative premise, which is, once again, about a non-human society parallel to and parasitic of our own: Not only do monsters really jump out of your closet, they do it for a living, helping fuel the city of Monstropolis with the energy of children's screams. To make primal terror funny to children, the monsters are depicted as terrified of children, especially the thought that a human might invade their fragile world.
The monsters, you see, are lowly wage slaves in a troubled power corporation that fuels the city of Monstropolis. Each day, the blue-collar monsters line up and are presented with a series of doors to enter. They have quotas, employees of the month and a practice room, with an animatronic boy who will scream at a properly delivered scare.
Two of these hard-working stiffs are Sulley (voiced by John Goodman) who is the purple, green and bearish scare champion of the factory, and his hustler assistant, a one-eyed tennis ball on legs named Mike (the voice of Billy Crystal). A constellation of co-workers includes the bad-tempered office manager Roz (Bob Peterson); the crab-like company owner (James Coburn), the snake-haired receptionist girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly) and Sulley's arch-rival, the purple, disappearing snake Randall (Steve Buscemi).
The plot consists of a child invasion, when a squeaky little girl toddler named Boo (Mary Gibbs) follows a monster through to the other side. Sulley, being a kindly soul beneath his big hairy exterior, takes a shine to her (the adult audience may be less won over) and wants to keep her from the extermination team.
The rest of the monsters go on high-security panic. The subsequent contamination scenario -- including nervous expert monsters appearing on Monstropolis television -- has unavoidable, if entirely unintentional resonance with contemporary events. Mostly, kids should see it for what it is -- a game of hide-and-seek, including a brief period when Mike, Sulley and Boo are involuntarily outed, and find themselves in the Himalyas, visiting the not-so-Abominable Snowman, who serves yellow snow-cones.
Much of the racing about, Mike's comic jabbering, and Randall's evil machinations, are more tiresome than fun, as the movie cleaves too closely to the noisy Saturday morning cartoon formulas. Apart from one lovely scene -- where the monsters and child climb over a moving assembly line of doors, leaping in and out of different realities -- Monsters, Inc. fails to develop the poetic richness of its metaphor. The Toy Story movies were children's movies to inspire adult memories; Monsters, Inc. barely lasts as long as its running time.