Nothing to be scared of
Eye, monster ... Billy Crystal voices the neurotic Mike Wazowski.
More than a decade after its original theatrical release, this hugely enjoyable – and highly successful – fourth outing from Pixar makes a welcome holiday return, now suitably converted for a 3D-expectant audience.
Granted, it has been dusted off largely to generate interest in the coming Monsters University, but what's most surprising is how well the thing has aged. By today's standards, it may feel rather straightforward in narrative terms, but it remains wildly infectious entertainment, soaked as it is with a colour palette to die for.
Furry beast James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (John Goodman) and his one-eyed wingman, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), spend much of their time scaring kids to bits (their job is to gather this energy to power the locale of Monstropolis). Matters become problematic when little girl Boo (Mary Gibbs) ventures inside their world. And so begins a race against time, before the blue and green ones get dumped on by their grouchy boss, Henry J. Waternoose (movie great James Coburn, in one of his last screen performances). A rival collector (Steve Buscemi) provides a neat subplot to keep things moving.
The glorious chase sequence to shoo Boo back home remains an obvious, key highlight, even if it feels protracted for audiences more used to faster, tighter sequences on screen.
Having these antics writ large in 3D makes up for it. Those who have grown up watching the film in 2D at home will, one assumes, venture out to relive it. (Other notable 3D reissues are coming soon, with anniversary conversions of The Little Mermaid and, for live-action fans, Top Gun, before its Blu-ray release. Neither seems quite as well suited to such an experience as this, though.)
Also worthy of a reminder note is the great Randy Newman, who scored a deserving best original song Oscar for his input in the film's feel-good soundtrack (for the song If I Didn't Have You). Newman's astute musical nuances are crucial in cementing the film's broad appeal.
It's interesting to note how far Pixar has come since Monsters, Inc. It has continued to deliver dependable modern gems (Toy Story 3, Up) while also, inevitably, firing off the odd clunker (namely, both Cars films and, to some extent, Brave).
Whether Monsters, Inc. warrants a belated sequel remains to be seen, but this dust-off serves as a shrewdly timed reminder of Pixar's early, heady days, when the animation powerhouse could do no wrong.
Monsters Inc. 3D
Reviewer's rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Rated G, 96 minutes, opens January 17.
Voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, James Coburn, Steve Buscemi, Jennifer Tilly.