leave a comment --Frank Lovece
An inspired idea that the childhood monsters in our closets are not only real, but just everyday Joes doing their jobs is buried in a bland, computer-animated feature that, despite the claim, is only sort-of "from the creators of TOY STORY." John Lasseter, the brilliant director behind TOY STORY 1 and 2 and such signature Pixar shorts as "Luxo Jr." and the Oscar-winning "Tin Toy," is simply the executive producer. (To put this in perspective, Steven Spielberg was the executive producer of THE FLINTSTONES.) In the other-dimensional city of Monstropolis, we find brownstones, clichéd Italian storefront grocers, and a variety of monsters that are as cute as polar bears and pet lizards. Monsters, Inc. is the city's privately owned power company whose employees include the furry and horned yet easygoing top Scarer, James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (voice of John Goodman), and his best friend, roommate and Scare Assistant, neurotic motormouth Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal), a walking, green-skinned eyeball. With each factory shift, a line of Scare Assistants sets up inter-dimensional closet doors, the Scarer goes through and the ensuing children's screams are collected as electrical energy. The monsters are told that the humans are toxic; even so much as a static-clung human sock coming back through the doors warrants a full hazmat-and-helicopter storming by the CDA (Child Detection Agency). Yet despite such overkill, we eventually learn that some, including company owner Henry J. Waternoose (James Coburn) and Sulley's evil rival, Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi), know it's not true. No reason is ever given as to why the generally decent, hardworking monsters are being lied to, and it's exactly this kind of inattention and lack of respect for story details that stifles this often cute, mildly funny film. Once a precocious, babbling toddler (Mary Gibbs) follows Sulley back to his world, the story can't decide whether it's about the relationship between the two monster friends or a monster and a little girl. Consequences are weightless. We're told in dire tones about monsters like the Abominable Snowman (John Ratzenberger) who are banished forever, yet our monster heroes return easily from exile in the most "well, duh" of ways. The comic-chase possibilities of inter-dimensional doors are given short shrift, and there's an entire sequence that's blatantly swiped from Chuck Jones's classic 'toon "Feed the Kitty." All this might have been mitigated somewhat by great dialogue, but the funny lines fall flat and the relationships and conversations among adult characters are straight out of 1950s sitcoms. Now that's scary.