Why do horrible monsters jump out of the darkness of closets and from under our beds to make kids scream in terror? Well, they do it to collect energy to run an entire city, Monstropolis, of course! Unfortunately, it’s becoming more and more difficult to scare these new generations, so the inhabitants of the city, and especially the workers of Monsters, Inc., must do something about it…
This is the brilliant idea behind the 2001 film Monsters, Inc. directed by Pete Docter, David Silverman and Lee Unkrich. Twenty years have passed since its theatrical release and it still remains one of the best Pixar products ever made. The main characters are all memorable, each one perfect in his physicality and in his way of behaving; their world is splendid; and the story is original, even if it uses a few clichés that are almost the norm in modern animated films.
There are two protagonists: the huge Sullivan (John Goodman) and little Mike (Billy Crystal, who regretted not accepting the role of Buzz in Toy Story a few years earlier). They must take care of an adorable little girl, Boo (Mary Gibbs) who arrives in Monstropolis by mistake and it’s a source of panic in the city just like a real monster would be in one of our cities. Not only do they need to avoid their boss Waternoose (James Coburn) and supervisor Roz (Bob Peterson), but they also have to fight the envious Randall (Steve Buscemi)!
The film is great to watch as it’s very dynamic, colorful, and full of hilarious slapstick comedy. It’s also extremely well made, and I can’t help but marvel at an animation that twenty years later still works perfectly in its beautiful Bluray format in which I own the film. Finally, the themes of the movie are intelligent and make the movie valuable for adult viewers as well as for a younger audience! But who am I kidding? I had a lot of fun watching Monsters, Inc.!
But let me talk about the themes for a moment. I loved the critique to a large company putting profits ahead of everything else and which literally kidnaps children to torture them in order to achieve its goals. Maybe it’s a bit ironic since Pixar itself isn’t certainly a charity, but I appreciated a message like this in a film directed to a young audience. Surely our society would be better if we all followed higher principles than seeking profit, and certainly the large multinationals are the symbol of extreme capitalism.
Then, as a big fan of Terry Pratchett, I obviously appreciate when the fantasy standards are subverted as in the case of Sullivan and Mike (and many others) who are… good monsters! Labels and prejudices are certainly deleterious and they are even more so when they are instilled in children from an early age. Monsters, Inc. does its best to revolutionize prejudice and presents some selfless and generous monsters who fight against other types of monsters, those interested in profit and power mentioned above. Luckily, the latter are a minority, and this seems right in a film aimed at a young audience.
Finally, how not to mention another great message from the film: we must face our fears! Boo does it literally, as she faces the monster that haunts her at night. Sullivan and Mike do it too as they are afraid of both Boo and their boss! And then the movie is all about the power of laughter! It seems excellent to me that such positive lessons get to our little ones from such a funny (and at the same time intelligent) film.
All these qualities make me overlook some plot defects such as that of the cliché of the two inseparable friends who at some point separate but then inevitably come back together. Monsters, Inc. is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful animated films of the 2000s and deserves to be watched and rewatched by everyone! Ciao!