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"Monsters Inc."

Directed by Pete Docter.
Written by eight different people, for crying out loud. 
Starring the voices of Billy Crystal and John Goodman.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  11/4/01 


So, was the movie as intriguing as the previews?

You see, you have probably heard already, but a certain big-budget science fiction adventure filmmaker decided to make "Monsters, Inc." the first film to get to show the trailer to his next movie.  So, almost upstaging the film itself is the trailer to the next "Star Wars" film.

And, much like the preview to "Episode I:  The Phantom Menace", the applause comes before they even show you what movie is being previewed!  This is really funny to me.  The only two times I have ever seen people applaud before even seeing anything is for the last two "Star Wars" films.  Why would you applaud just seeing the unmistakable dark green logo of Lucasfilm?  I have no friggin' idea.

So, the preview:  pretty good.  The best parts about it (without giving much of it away) are the voiceover work...and the fact that George Lucas doesn't really show you anything.  This is more teaser than trailer, so in that respect, it works.  I will say this one thing about the preview:  the prominent shot of a character that must be intergalactic bounty hunter Boba Fett got the kids in my theater howling.  Gotta love jet packs.

Finally, the movie started.  And, the folks at locally-based Pixar (based across the Bay Bridge in Emeryville, California) have done it again.  While not as deep as the work they completed on the superior "Toy Story 2", the studio's fourth feature film is pretty good and its one-trick pony runs away with the victory.  The hook is a good one:  in an alternate universe, those creepy monsters that hide under your bed and in your closet are actually...just doing their day job!  Working for a company called Monsters, Inc., best friends Mike (voice of Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) form the most devastating monster tandem in the company.  Why?  Sully is leading the company in scare quotient, and that is a good thing for everybody because the entire city where these monsters live runs on scares instead of electricity for its main source of power.

But, is it ever that easy?  Unlike the monsters you and I read about as children, the monsters in "Monsters, Inc." only scare to earn their keep--because away from their jobs, all of the monsters are actually *scared* of the children they spend all day scaring.  One night, mistakes made by one of Sully's scare rivals (Steve Buscemi) leads to a breach in security--a child climbs out of bed and through the portal the monsters use to enter the human world.  Sully takes the child under his wing--and out of the eyes of the other co-workers, who are scared blind of children—and starts to learn that these human folk ain't so bad after all.

After the hilarious first half-hour, I was worried that the filmmakers would run out of story after the child--animated to be the world's most adorable little girl, which leads to an unprecedented amount of "Oh!"s in the theater (be forewarned)--gets into Sully's hands.  But, I was impressed at the number of subtle layers the movie rolled out in showing us the relationship between Sully and "Boo" (his name for the kid), Sully and Mike, and how the three of them will get Boo back to her human home.  And, there are pretty funny supporting characters, much like there was in the other Pixar pictures.  Of course, the film only lasts about 85 minutes, so it is a pretty quick ride anyway.

Overall, a strong film.  The only problem I had with the film was the script's negligence in mentioning (even once!) that Boo must have parents or someone to watch over her, and even though she is gone for a full day, no one seems to notice!  In "Toy Story", at least they mention the parents a couple of times!  In "Monsters, Inc." (and this becomes more clear when you have seen the ending to this film), some heartstrings are pulled in ways that didn't quite work for me, given that this girl should have some parents that miss her.

You might think that is picky, but I thought it was noticeable.  Also, the short that appears before "Monsters, Inc." is really funny, too.  Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09