First came Toy Story. It was cute, but lacked bite. The technology was new, and Pixar was still experimenting. Next came A Bug's Life. It was remarkable. Then came Toy Story 2. Even better! Now here is their fourth feature: Monsters Inc. I'm not sure that it's better than Toy Story 2, but at the very least it's equal. It doesn't compare with that film in terms of hilarity. Toy Story 2, in my opinion, is one of the funniest films of the past several years, if not the funniest. However, Monters Inc. has a couple of advantages over TS2 (and, I promise you, it is at least as funny as any other film from 2001). First, the animation is even better than TS2. What? What did you say? Shrek? Ugh, don't even mention that waste of hard-drive space. Monsters Inc. is simply gorgeous in its color schemes. And the movement of the characters is so smooth it looks almost as if it were just the best stop-motion animation ever created. In the film, there is a Japanese restaurant that the monsters go to that's named after the great stop-motion master Roy Harryhausen. I'm sure he'd be stunned at the accomplishment. Second, it has a couple of the most exciting sequences in animation history, especially the climactic sequence in the door room. That's a scene that'll go down in the books. And, third, it's perhaps the first Disney film since Dumbo to be touching, but not cloying. Although some people have told me that the one song in TS2 made them cry, I personally was cringing through that number. There's a scene in Monsters Inc. that honestly made me cry. Generally, that's not much. I'm easily moved. However, I don't fail to notice if a film is emotionally manipulative. That's not the case here. The only other Disney moment that really touched me that deeply is the "Baby Mine" song from Dumbo. I think that the only people who don't cry during that song are convicts on death row. I really loved the characters in Monsters Inc. The relationship that develops between Sully and Boo is truly touching. It's developed in a very natural way. And it certainly helps that Boo is easily the cutest kid in the universe, even if she's not real. There were a lot of "aww"s in the theater, but they were coming from college students, not maddening parents trying to get their kids to pay attention. Oh! And did I mention that the film's villain is one of Disney's best? He's a chameleon-like monster named Raymond, voiced by Steve Buscemi. Sure, his motives aren't all that interesting, but I love the way he moves. It's amazing. And his face is so expressive, but not too expressive like the characters in, say, ahem, Shrek.
As much as I would love to, I can't say that Monsters Inc. is a perfect film. There are a couple of flaws. The first fifteen minutes or so, basically until Boo wanders out into the monsters' world, are pretty boring. By this point, though, I was so amazed at the beauty of the artwork that I hardly cared. Also, most of the monsters aren't very interesting looking, that is, besides the colors. Raymond and the big boss of Monsters Inc., who is a spider-like creature, are the most interesting. Also, Billy Crystal's girlfriend in the film, a Medusa-like creature, with snakes for hair that copy her emotions, is very cool. Most of the other monsters are so cute that it's a wonder that they can scare children at all! (That's how they get fuel, by the way; children's screams power the monsters' world). Sully, for instance, who is the main character, more or less (the commercials concentrate on Billy Crystal's character more, for some reason; the logic must be that Billy Crystal is a bigger box office draw than big, fat John Goodman, a pretty insulting thought). Anyhow, Boo comes into the monsters' world because she thinks he is a giant kitty! We can't blame them too much for this, though. You know Disney would never produce a film that didn't have an ability to push their line of plush toys. Some of the monsters, though, are kind of boring. This is especially true with Mike, the little green cyclops ball played by Crystal. Sully could become a classic hero, and Raymond a classic villain, but it's doubtful Mike will stick in your head for as long. Crystal is, however, very funny in the film (and that might be the only time I'll ever say that!). He'll never be as boring as Shrek, nor as painful to listen to as Eddie Murphy as the donkey in Shrek. The story of Monsters Inc. is full of cliches, which is unfortunate. As I've been trying to point out, most everything else about the film is so inventive that it's not too noticeable, but it will never be unnoticeable. You'll see the revelation that the monsters have at the end two hours before the movie starts. Your youngest child might not figure it out, but anyone over eight will know as soon as it's humanly possible. There's also the kind of betrayal that's popping up so often now in animation, well, in all movies, really, that you can almost take it for granted anymore. And, heck, I would've predicted it myself if I weren't being so enormously entertained! If it weren't for these cliches, Monsters Inc. might have ended up earning the title as one of the best movies I had ever seen. Still, I'll never forget it! Now, what can Pixar possibly do to surpass this? 9/10.