I am indeed a Pixar fan, and Monsters, Inc. is my second favorite Pixar film (the first being The Incredibles. I get into arguments about this with some of my Pixar-phile friends but I have to base it on which I enjoyed the most. Incredibles logo from one of the great superhero t shirts on the t shirt site). The marketing for this film hit the saturation point a couple months ago and were I less of a fan would have rubbed me raw quite a while ago (to the marketing firm responsible: enough already), but I am glad to report that in spite of having seen six movie lengths worth of trailers I still enjoyed the heck out of it.
By the way, normally I go see kids movies during kids hours in order to judge how the kids in the audience were reacting. For this film I didn’t want to be distracted by a bunch of rug rats yelling, crying, laughing, running around, throwing stuff, kicking my chair, and puking so purposefully went to a 10:50 showing on a school night and found the theater to be…chock full of freaking kids? Is this really what passes for parenting in America? My father was arguably one of the most sociopathic self centered parents in the history of genetics and even he made sure it was a Friday or Saturday night when he took us all to a late night drive in showing of whatever Rated R childhood trauma he opted to inflict upon my seven year old brain. If it’s 1am on a Thursday night and you are driving your grade school kids home from a movie you really should re-examine your priorities in life.
Anyway, this movie was pretty awesome. As good as Monsters, Inc.? No. The first film was so ground breaking and original that this film could cure cancer and it would not match up. It is as good or better than any other animated film in the last few years (except perhaps Wreck it, Ralph. I’d be happy to discuss the relative merits of the two films sometime) and absolutely better than most of the dross out there. As I have said before a good kids film in like a good table: it needs at least three solid legs to stand on. Cute, colorful characters to keep the ankle biters fixated on the screen; a funny, entertaining story for the pre-teen kids, and some sophisticated humor and plot to keep the parents from strangling their kids for dragging them this junk. This film had all three elements in perfect balance and harmony.
As I do with kids films I will not do my usual rating system as it is kind of a waste to hold a film made for children to the same canon as films made for adults. In this case it would be a particular waste of time as for the life of me I can’t honestly think of a true negative criticism. Films that I can’t find anything negative to say tend to make for the most boring reviews as I do nothing but fan boy it up and end up with me looking like a tool. This film isn’t the Citizen Kane of animated features (although Monsters, Inc. and Toy Story could vie for that title), but it is on the Godfather: Part 2 level.
The story (SPOILER ALERT-skip ahead three paragraphs) starts off young Mike Wakowski (Billy Crystal-When Harry Met Sally, Monsters, Inc., Analyze This) taking a grade school class field trip to Monsters, Inc., where he gets inspired to become a Scarer and attend MU. Flash forward twelve years and he arrives at MU (looking suspiciously like another certain college here in the East Bay that shall go unmentioned but who’s name sounds a lot like Mal Turkeley), eager to start studying. He meets his roommate Randy Boggs (Steve Buscemi-Reservoir Dogs, Fargo, the Big Lebowski) and starts attending his first class. His class is interrupted by young Sullivan (John Goodman-the Big Lebowski, Argo, Roseanne), a naturally talented class clown who looks down on Mike’s lack of scariness and bookish nature. During the first class they are introduced to Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren-the Debt, Queen, Hitchcock), an exacting official who has tough standards for scarers.
At that point it’s pretty much Revenge of the Nerds meets Animal House. In spite of Sully’s natural ability and Mike’s had dedication to study they fail to pass the first final exam and are kicked out of the Scarer program by Hardscrabble. Mike figures out that in order to get back in they need to win the Scare Off, the big Greek scaring contest. Mike needs a frat and joins the lamest one on campus just to get in the contest. Unfortunately his teammates all suck and they are one body short (literally) so he has to bring in Sully in spite that they dislike each other intensely.
At that point the story moves on to one of both triumph and regret in fun ways. Mike and Sully become great friends and teammates.
Like I said, I’m not going to bother with stars and black holes. The kids in the audience loved this film, even the grown up ones like me. Seeing 2-4 movies a week for the last three years has kind of burned out part of my soul that causes me to react in a theater but I found myself with a big, dopey grin on my face for most of this film. Everyone should see it, and if you happen to have kids you are in luck as you can enjoy it right along with them. The animation was amazing, and some of the sets they created were worth the price of admission alone. Date movie? Are you kidding? If seeing this film with a girl doesn’t get you laid it is entirely possible you died a while ago and are actually a rotting animated corpse. Bathroom break? No way. 110 minutes is totally doable. Don’t miss a minute.
Thanks for reading. I have had some amazing luck with films in the last few weeks, which of course will only make the next crappy one I grind through that much more ironically painful. However, I am going to enjoy the ride while it lasts. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Comments on how awesome this movie or my review is can be left here. Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.