starring John Goodman, Billy Crystal, James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, Steve Buscemi, Mary Gibs and John Ratzenberger
written by Andrew and Daniel Gerson
directed by Pete Doctor
I wrote before that I do not like movies adapted from comic books or newspaper comic strips, and I do not feel much differently about movies based on television cartoons. This remains true. That leaves another genre to consider: the feature-length animated movie like what Disney Studios produces, “claymation” films, and the kinds of films that can be made today using only computer-generated images. These are original stories made as animations, not based on previous cartoons or comics. Pixar Studios specializes in these computer-generated movies, in such projects as Toy Story and Toy Story 2. So far I have liked the computer-generated films I have seen, like the Toy Story movies and, now, Monster, Inc. One thing I like to do is to try and identify what actors are doing the voices of the movie’s characters without reading the credits first, and in Monsters Inc.I was pretty good at it. I guessed all the actors except Steve Buscemi as Randall - a lizard-like creature who changes his skin color to match his surroundings - one of two villains in the film. I picked out John Goodman as James P. Sullivan, the hero of the story, and James Coburn right away. I had more trouble identifying Billy Crystal, who did not always sound like himself.
This film is one of the last - maybe the last - that James Coburn did before dying in November 2002. (Another of his final projects was the film Snow Dogs, co-starring Cuba Gooding, Jr., which I also saw.)
The story has a good premise: monsters enter children’s bedrooms at night to scare them because their screams are the source of energy to power Monster city in their world. This is an American film, so monsters are found under beds, or they come out of closets after children go to bed (bedtime is at 9:00 p.m.), in the American child’s experience of monster-fear. Do Japanese children fear monsters in the dark when they go to bed? If so, what form does the fear take? Where are the monsters hiding? As a kind of threat to get my children to go to bed I tell them about monsters, and about the invisible man standing in the corner of the bedroom, by the door, watching them. (My wife yells at me to stop it!)
It is a sweet story that you will love if you love children.
Not surprisingly, the music is by Randy Newman. He does a lot of soundtracks for these kinds of films, and his sound is distinctive.