Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Monsters That Are, But Don't Know Why: Monsters, Inc.

The Good: Funny, Good animation, Good voiceovers
The Bad: Predictable plot, Unsure of What It Wants to Be
The Basics: Recommended for the achievement in animation more than the story that begins at too ambitions and degenerates into too juvenile.

Occasionally, there's a film that looks like a kid's movie, but turns out to be an adult film. Monsters, Inc. almost does that. It starts out and after the opening credits, quickly establishes itself as something that is not simply a children's film. The lines and concept are too deep for most children.

Monsters, Inc. begins as the story of a town in a recession. The monster town is experiencing a power shortage based on an inability to scare children. Apparently, they power their town on children's screams. The concept is above the heads of most children: you're talking economic terms, many of the lines are thinly veiled references to nuclear energy (the parallels between scream energy and nuclear are uncanny). Moreover, it's not at all a stretch to see the thinly veiled homosexual motif throughout the film. I mean, that's pretty easy considering the number of closets in the film.

Okay, so the film focuses on the cyclops Mike and the Big Blue Monster Sully. They currently hold the record for most scares and life is good for them. Then, one of Sully's competitors decides to commit fraud and in the process, contaminates the monster town with a human child. Human children are feared and - in the nuclear metaphor - viewed as a contaminant.

Sully ends up with the child and basically, the rest of the film is a confused chase around the monster town and the human world.

If you've seen Toy Story, you know the plot to Monsters, Inc. It's just different characters and minor variations on the theme. The problem is, the film doesn't know what it wants to be. One moment, it's adult with all sorts of intelligence as a metaphor for power, economics and gay rights issues. The next moment, it's a predictable plot with an infantile approach to the world.

I would suggest that there's too much in this to be truly enjoyable to little children. That is, the villainy of the villains in the film are based on economics, terms outside a child's understanding. Adults are likely to not enjoy the film as much for the predictable plot and infantile resolution. The film is probably ideal for younger teens as it lacks real character depth and lasting intelligence.

What is likely to be enjoyable to all is that the film is often funny. And the animation is incredible. The hair moves like hair on Sully, the bodies move like bodies. The computer animators at Pixar show a greater appreciation of How Things Work than most Disney films of late have shown.

The film is fun, but inconsistent in its ability to make commentary and when it fails to do that, it degenerates into something far more meaningful and, for those who like things to make sense, supposedly "fun."

For other Disney animated films, please visit my reviews of:
Toy Story 3
A Christmas Carol
The Incredibles
The Little Mermaid
Lady And The Tramp
Sleeping Beauty


For other film reviews, please check out my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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