I took my two nieces to see “Monsters, Inc.,” one of the best Pixar movies ever made and one I still enjoy watching endlessly, at a local movie theater recently. This time we got to watch it in 3D, a format I’ve had a number of issues with over the years, but I still couldn’t help but check this movie out to see if Pixar was able to do something with it that other studios could not. All three of us have seen this movie countless times and have memorized the dialogue word for word to where nothing about can surprise us anymore. But however this movie looks in 3D, it’s not going to change the fact that it remains nothing short of fantastic.
It’s not worth the trouble to go over what “Monsters, Inc.” is about because we all know the story of Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James Sullivan (John Goodman) by now. The animation in this movie still looks amazing today, and it has been more than ten years since its release (yes, it has been that long). At times it looks like a combination of computer animation and live action footage to where images look like (as U2 would say) even better than the real thing.
But the other thing that makes this movie so darn special is the voice actors. Billy Crystal has cracked many a great a joke no matter what role he’s playing, but his work in “Monsters, Inc.” is especially noteworthy because he takes Mike from being selfish in his needs to being fully open to helping his best friend Sully any which way he can. Seeing that change shows how we don’t always give Crystal the credit he deserves as an actor.
John Goodman has always been underrated as an actor in my opinion, and that’s been the case since his brilliant performance in “Barton Fink.” He makes Sully a warm and funny character, and his voice helps to emphasis how this particular monster is genuine in his intentions. Movies like this have that requisite heroic character you have to root for, but Goodman makes you want to root for Sully in a way that is not easily accomplished. The animation also does a brilliant job in illustrating the various feelings Sully experiences in his relationship with the little girl he nicknames Boo, and even if you didn’t see this monster get all teary eyed, Goodman still makes the character’s emotions all the more vivid.
Like my nieces, I have watched “Monsters, Inc.” a thousand times and even though I know what’s going to happen, I’m still moved by the movie every time I watch it. When Sully’s eyes get all watery, so do mine. When he is forced to leave Boo, one of the most adorable little girls ever to appear in an animated movie, it still kills me even though I know how the movie will end. The movie is a triumph in animation, but it’s the story and the character which make it all so special.
I also got to point out the lovely music score by Randy Newman which tugs at the heartstrings in just the right way. Newman also captures the movie’s adventurous moments in spirited fashion, and he adds a lot to the funniest scenes as well. I guess the only thing more thrilling than his music in “Monsters, Inc.” is the fact that he finally won an Oscar for his work here after being nominated a dozen times and never winning. His song “If I Didn’t Have You” sums up the relationship between Mike and Sully perfectly.
Having said all that, I’m not sure what to say exactly about watching “Monsters, Inc.” in 3D. The thing is I always thought of it as a 3D movie even before seeing it in this format as the animation is so brilliantly constructed to where the city of Monstropolis looks like it has so many dimensions to it. The whole city and the factory these characters live in feels so real to where you feel the height and depth of everything that shows up onscreen. With the addition of 3D, nothing really changed for me in the way I saw this movie.
I guess the only scene in “Monsters, Inc.” that the 3D did add to was the one where Mike, Sully and Boo travel through the giant vault where millions of closet doors are held in storage. I actually got a sense of vertigo as these two monsters risked their lives to get Boo back home, and the moment where Sully is hanging on for dear life from one closet door felt especially frightening than it had previously. It’s also great fun to see these characters go through so many different doors and environments in the same way Cameron Diaz chased after Catherine Keener in “Being John Malkovich.”
Throughout the movie I did keep an eye on my niece who is now eight years old, and it was fun seeing her reach out at the screen as if to grab something. It reminded me of the time I saw “The Polar Express” in IMAX 3D and watching all the little kids wave their hands in the air as they tried to grasp at all those little snowflakes coming down at them from the big screen. I guess if the children who see “Monsters, Inc.” in 3D like it, then the movie has succeeded in this format. They are the ones who are worth impressing here as us adults are nowhere as easy to fool.
Well whatever format you end up seeing “Monsters, Inc.” in, it still remains one of the best and most enjoyable of Pixar movies to date. I love the characters and I love the animation, and in many ways it’s everything a movie can be and more. Seeing it again on the big screen with an audience was a treat, and I eagerly await the release of its prequel “Monsters University” which is coming out next summer. Seeing Mike and Sully tackling the crazy world of college should be every bit as entertaining as this movie was.