‘Monsters, Inc. (2001)’- Throwback Review

What’s the Story: In the city of Monstropolis inhabited by monsters, two best friends, James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal), are just one of a dozen employees working at Monsters Incorporated, an energy-plant factory where the goal is the gain scares from children to generate power for the city. Then one day after closing time, Sulley stumbles upon a small girl after her door is left in the open and starts a mass hysteria after the arrival of the first human in their world. In hopes of not getting caught, Sulley and Mike must seek Boo back to her room before it’s too late.

If my memory serves me right, Monsters, Inc. might’ve been the very first Pixar film I saw at the movies when I was a kid. This came out at a time where we saw exciting things from cartoons and back when the studio was on its A-game, swinging with hit after hit. Even after 20 years (Man, I’m old), this remains one of my favorite animated movies that never leaves me feeling dull, and does that make the goods to consider this yet another masterpiece from them? How about yes. When I always watched this on VHS back in the day, it’s easy to think the bright animation and comedy were the highlights, but it’s fun finding a pleasant understanding of what this goes for in the end. 

Monsters, Inc. (2001) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

This has a fantastic concept where we all thought monsters were hiding underneath our beds or in our closets, waiting to scare us at night. I don’t think I’ve ever had that fear since I never believed in them too much. Yet this sense of imagination came from Pete Docter, his first of many classics from Pixar, that wouldn’t be scary for a young audience. It was almost like this wanted to be a better job at the execution than that forgettable Little Monsters. Remember that “gem?” The idea came back in 1994 when Docter and other familiar Pixar friends had lunch together, thinking of ideas for their upcoming movies, including Monsters, Inc. This was to give off the notion of being similar to Toy Story, as having something revolve around monsters in a way that’s not how we typically see them. With that, you got a 92-minute adventure that perfectly captures that early magic we don’t get in animated movies anymore. Right before everything kicks off with the plot, the fascination of its world-building is very unique when you have to imagine there’s a universe where different kinds of monsters exist, living their day-to-day lives working the traditional 9 to 5. What’s even more impressive than it’s believable enough to find connected to and find utterly creative. 

At the time and even now, I love how much effort everyone took to make the animation look great. Whether it’s from the locations or the design of the monsters themselves, it looks like a lot of hard work that paid off big time. In fact so awesome, the attention to detail with Sulley’s rendered fur is hard not to notice, which I had to assume were challenging to get through.

The film’s highlight is Mike and Sulley’s characters, voiced flawlessly by Billy Crystal and John Goodman. Did I know who these two were at age 5? No idea, but it’s never a problem when they fit these two so well you honestly can’t hear any other voices. But you have this buddy friendship of this one-eyed green monster and this big blue-purple beast that makes for a great duo when they had to deal with this situation with this human kid. You understand these two were best friends for ages, and the chemistry between them never fails to be engaging, a friendship that works for me every time. And when Boo comes into the mix, they basically become these stand-in parents without getting caught and be banished. Boo could’ve been an annoying character that stumbles to this world, but she isn’t; she’s a two-year-old who doesn’t find these monsters scary, but they think all humans are dangerous and toxic. The film’s heart relies on the relationship that forms with Sulley & Boo where he must protect her, and this fatherly bond just warms my heart every time. My sister and I had plush toys for both of them. That must explain why Sulley’s one of my favorites.

Monsters, Inc. (2001) - Photo Gallery - IMDb

Other voices adding to the greatness here include Steve Buscemi as the sneaky lizard/ chameleon Randell, who’s a great choice if I ever head one; Jennifer Tilly as Mike’s girlfriend Celia, and the late James Coburn as Mr. Waternoose, the CEO of Monsters, Inc.

I haven’t watched this in a long time, but you have to be the most jaded person in the world to not find anything funny here, especially with any of the banter from Mike and Sulley. Of course, the writing doesn’t shy away from having a bunch of slapstick moments and certain jokes adults will pick up. Mike always brought the funniest moments. My favorite scene that was a blast to rewatch is the door chase sequence that had to be the most elaborate part to accomplish. But just the thought of the scariest thing for monsters to be frightened of humans-kids more importantly- is always weird but silly to ignore. And believe it or not, there’s a lesson to take away from all of this I didn’t get until I was a teenager: Assuming stereotypes when that’s not always the case. Typically, we think monsters present themselves as scary beings when that isn’t always true since it goes with humans when we tend to overlook these prejudices.

There’s also Randy Newman’s fourth time collaborating with Pixar to provide the score, and it’s one that’ll always recognizable be and sounds attached to the film with its fusion of jazz during its opening and showcasing the workdays of its employees and throwing in an adventurous and lighthearted affair later on. The movie really does a number near the end where the tears start to flow, unsurprisingly.

Will kids today love this as much as adults did back in 2001? Absolutely. Those who missed the days of original Pixar will be in joy watching Monsters, Inc., and even they can make up stories similar to what they saw here. As another hit from the studio, it became the fourth highest-grossing film of the year with $255 million domestically, and it was one of the first movies to get nominated for Best Animated Feature. However, it lost to the equally great Shrek, one of the few times Pixar didn’t win the Oscar for that category. Randy Newman actually won his first Best Original Song Oscar for the tune “If I Didn’t Have You,” along with nominations for Original Score and Sound Editing. A 2012 3D re-release came out, and it landed a prequel with Monsters University, which I liked, but it’s not better than the original like some would think.

Overall, Monsters, Inc. is one of the greatest animated films ever to come out, continuing the success of how Pixar makes these for everyone. Having the opportunity to bring dazzling animation and clever humor/ storytelling, nothing about Pete Docter’s directorial debut disappoints when it’s fast-paced and full-on fun. One I’ll always love from start to finish. 

Grade: A

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