The Monsters, Inc. Series
Monsters, Inc. (January 10/11)
A typically engrossing Pixar effort, Monsters, Inc. follows a pair of likeable monsters (John Goodman's Sulley and Billy Crystal's Mike Wazowski) as they inadvertently find themselves caring for a little girl (Mary Gibbs' Boo) - despite the fact that humans are thought to be toxic to the residents of Monstropolis. Filmmakers Pete Docter, David Silverman, and Lee Unkrich have infused Monsters, Inc. with an absolutely breathtaking animation style that effectively captures the viewer's interest and attention right from the get-go, with the impressively (and meticulously) conceived nature of the film's off-the-wall locale heightening the impact of the eye-popping visuals. It's just as clear that the movie benefits substantially from the palpable chemistry between Goodman and Crystal's respective characters, as their ongoing interaction with one another is rife with exactly the sort of back-and-forth charm that one has come to expect from Pixar (ie there are certainly echoes of Woody and Buzz in these guys). The almost pervasively lighthearted atmosphere admittedly does prevent Monsters, Inc. from packing the emotional punch of, say, an Up or a Toy Story, although, having said that, there's certainly no denying the strength of the movie's various chase sequences - with the propulsive finale, a jaw-dropping pursuit through an enormous space filled with suspended doors, standing as a high point, in terms of excitement, within Pixar's entire filmography. The end result is a captivating, thoroughly entertaining bit of kid-friendly filmmaking, and it's ultimately difficult to envision even the most jaded of moviegoers not finding something here worth embracing.
A prequel to 2001's Monsters, Inc., Monsters University follows Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman) as they meet at the title locale and take an immediate disliking to one another - with the pair forced to put aside their differences after they agree to participate in a scare-themed competition. It's a fairly pedestrian premise that's employed to shockingly run-of-the-mill and middle-of-the-road effect by director Dan Scanlon, as the movie, virtually from the word go, comes off as a routine prequel that rarely deviates from the formula one associates with stories of this ilk. The charm of the characters and the superb quality of the animation simply cannot compensate for a narrative that's been suffused with eye-rollingly hoary tropes, with the screenplay's paint-by-numbers nature exacerbated by a midsection that couldn't possibly be less interesting (ie it's impossible to work up any enthusiasm for Mike and Sulley's efforts at whipping a ragtag group of one-dimensional figures into shape). Monsters University's arm's length atmosphere, which is compounded by typically horrible 3D that drains the movie of its brightness and color, persists right up until the admittedly unpredictable third act rolls around, with the effectiveness of this stretch ensuring that the film, for the first time, begins to resemble the original in terms of heart and forward momentum. Despite the last-minute turnaround, however, it's ultimately impossible not to walk away from Monsters University feeling awfully disappointed - as one has come to expect much, much better from the folks at Pixar (although, given the less-than-stellar quality of the studio's last few releases, perhaps not).