Reviewed by: Douglas Downs
John Goodman … James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (voice)
Billy Crystal … Mike Wazowski (voice)
Mary Gibbs … Boo (voice)
Steve Buscemi … Randall Boggs (voice)
James Coburn … Henry J. Waternoose (voice)
Jennifer Tilly … Celia (voice)
Bob Peterson … Roz (voice)
John Ratzenberger … The Abominable Snowman (voice)
Frank Oz … Fungus (voice)
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David Silverman (co-director)
Lee Unkrich (co-director)
Pixar Animation Studios
Walt Disney Pictures
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“We think they are scary, but really we scare them!”
Probably every parent has helped their child through fearful times. Many of us can still remember when we had thoughts of boogymen under our bed. Even many older children still appreciate the comforts a night light offers.
The problem for some parents is that no matter what, children can still be so easily convinced that there is something lurking! Various counseling resources I’ve read indicate that many parents ignore obvious contributors to the fear factor. I’m amazed at how many parents don’t monitor what their children watch on television. And children who have a parent that works third shift or is involved in divorce, separation, or other conflict in the home can sometimes become frightened of an imaginary world of monsters due to the deeper problem of separation anxiety.
But there is a “Monster Code of Ethics”: Monsters cannot see you if you are in bed and under the covers. Some Web sites even sell various Monster Buster products—wands, or sprays. But I prefer using these moments of fear to reassure my son with scripture. Hebrews 4:13 declares “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account”. In Revelation Jesus says, “I am He who searches hearts and minds.” The bottom line is that we are not alone. I also recommend Psalm 139:1-6 and underscoring the truth that God’s word declares that “perfect love casts out fear”. “Monsters, Inc.” can provide an opportunity to either have a discussions with your child about fears, or it could reinforce them (see my notes at the end). We live in a fearful world presently. Even adults today are anxious over monsters in the mailbox named “Anthrax”.
Thankfully, our monsters from Pixar are clever, funny, and in an energy crisis (huh?). Can you recall when rolling blackouts or paying more than $2.00 for a gallon of gasoline was our biggest fear? The theme is as familiar as giving personality to toys (“Toy Story”) or bugs (“A Bug’s Life”). Many of the gags in the film are parodies of our own world: the universe of Monstropolis has street sweepers depositing trash in their mouth, a slimy monster falls through the slats of a sidewalk gate, and monsters that use underarm deodorants such as “smelly garbage” or “old dumpster”.
Monstropolis is powered by children’s screams, which are collected nightly in large yellow tanks. Sully (voice by John Goodman) is the monster team’s leading scorer. He is about to break the all-time record. His friend and manager is Mike Wazowski (voice by Billy Crystal). Together they talk about everything from work to women. Mike’s love interest happens to be a charmer (pun intended) named Celia (voice by Jennifer Tilly). The entire operation is overseen by Henry J. Waternoose (voice by James Coburn). The conflict in our story is not just the lack of energy, but a monster named Randall Boggs (voice by Steve Buscemi, who get to be creepy for the kids in this film and in “Domestic Disturbance” for adults all at the same time).
Randall will go to any lengths to overtake Sully’s scream totals, so he develops a scream extractor and plans to kidnap children and hold them for “screams”. But monsters firmly believe that children are toxic. This is magnified in Monstropolis when a cute little girl named Boo (voice by 5 year old Mary Gibbs) stumbles into their world. Sully and Mike discover Boo and this sinister plot, teaming up to try and return Boo to her world. This conflict provides for the majority of the action and, of course, chase scenes.
The computer generated graphics are amazing. The studios continue to improve this craft. Mike’s eye looks very realistic and even Sully’s fur blows in the wind. While I found nothing objectionable in this film, there is some caution to be had… namely that some younger children will become frightened (cries and screams could be heard in the theater). “Monsters, Inc.” is rated “G”, but there are many scenes that are way too intense for children 5 and under. I strongly recommend that for the little ones you wait for the video. The Veggie Tales video “Where’s God When I’m S-Scared?” is a good supplement or alternative—which includes a cute story about Frankencelery in “Tales From the Crisper”.
If you have children that wrestle with things that go bump in the night—this film will probably not help much. One final note: “Shrek” moved their video release date to coincide with the wide screen release of “Monsters, Inc.” The big difference between these two is that “Shrek” offends with innuendoes galore and “Monsters” does not.