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MONSTERS INC.

Review by Michael Jacobson

Voices:  Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn
Director:  Pete Docter
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1 EX
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1, Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  93 Minutes
Release Date:  September 17, 2002

"Monsters Inc.  We scare because we care."

Film ****

Three key ingredients to creating a successfully entertaining story?  Take a well established premise, give it fresh motivation, and throw in a surprise twist.  Monsters Inc. does all of that, and in the space of maybe ten minutes or less.  That left a lot of room for the dual studios of Disney and Pixar to flex their creative muscles, and boy, did they ever.

The premise behind this computer animated offering?  The monsters in the closets and under the beds that every little kid knows about.  The fresh motivation?  That there is in fact a thriving business on the other side of that closet door, where the monsters collect the kids' screams and use them for power.  The twist?  The monsters are in fact deathly afraid of the children.

As wild as kids' imaginations can be, it's nothing compared to the residents of Monstropolis, where they actually believe children to be toxic and deadly!  They even have an entire government department dedicated to child prevention and decontamination. 

Rustling up scares, therefore, is risky business, and there's none better at it than Sully (Goodman), a big blue furball with the personality of someone who wouldn't hurt a mouse.  He and his best friend, Mike Wazowski (Crystal), who is a big green one-eyed sphere, are the top scream producing team at Monsters Inc.

The one thing the monsters fear most is a kid accidentally making its way through that closet door and into their world, and of course, that's exactly what happens.  When the snakey Randall (Buscemi) tries to cheat his way to better numbers, he leaves a door out, and Sully accidentally (gasp!) lets the child in!

While the city erupts in panic, he and Mike try their best to contain the "danger", with the object of getting the little girl back into the human world and keeping their bottoms out of the sling as well! 

That's the premise in a nutshell, but there's so much to Monsters Inc. that keeps it rollicking with entertainment.  It's fast, funny, visually stunning (arguably Pixar's masterpiece to date), and ceaselessly surprising.  Just when you think you've gotten a handle of everything the movie has to offer, it comes at you with one of the most exciting action sequences in recent memory as Mike and Sully make their way through a fast moving door factory!  Then, the picture surprises again, when you find you have a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye that isn't laughter induced.

This picture was nominated for Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Sound Effects Editing, and took home a statuette for Randy Newman's song "If I Didn't Have You", but even those accolades don't come close to expressing what a marvelous, imaginative romp this movie is.  As technology has improved, computer animation has opened up doors of endless possibilities.  If you can dream it, it can be done.

I'm thankful a few creative geniuses dreamed up Monsters Inc.

Video ****

In a word, flawless.  In two words, reference quality.  Every Disney/Pixar DVD offering has been of such top quality that you think it can't be improved upon, but each new catalog entry is better than the one before.  Monster's Inc. was transferred directly from the original digital source to disc with no film step in between, and the results are breathtaking.  The colors are beautiful and limitless, the images are sharp, detailed and crystal clear, and there's nothing, I mean NOTHING to interfere with the picture's impressive looks.  You get a choice of anamorphic widescreen and "reformatted" full frame, meaning simple image manipulation keeps you from losing so much of the picture when you view it that way (widescreen is still the better way to go).  If I could go higher than four stars, this disc would deserve it.

Audio ****

The 5.1 EX soundtrack is phenomenal.  There's action galore in the Monsters Inc. factory, with people and machinery buzzing every which way...you'll feel right in the middle of it all.  The musical score is an added plus, while dialogue is clean and clear every step of the way and the dynamic range is humorously potent.  Highest marks.

Features ****

When Disney pulls out all the stops on a DVD, few can touch them.  This double disc set is a pristine example.  Disc One, which includes the film, also includes an in-depth filmmakers' commentary track, a 5.1 EX sound effects mix track, and previews for coming attractions, which I mention because the trailer for Lilo and Stitch is a must-see...hysterical!  

Disc Two contains two divisions for easier exploring.  "Monster World" is something the kids will like.  You get to train for your first day on the job at Monsters Inc., peruse the employee handbook, learn the history of the monster world, play games, learn trivia, and more.  "Human World" is more for the adult fans.  You can see deleted scenes, experience 3D location fly-arounds, enjoy an extensive art gallery, a guide to gags and in-jokes, watch extensive featurettes on the production and animation, and go behind the scenes of the Oscar winning theme song.

There's also an all new animated film created for the DVD release, Mike's New Car.  Plus, there's the Academy Award winning Pixar short For the Birds, a sneak peek at their next feature Finding Nemo, "outtakes", the Monsters Inc. company play, trailers galore, storyboards and more.  The disc comes with a fold-out navigational menu...you just might need it!

Summary:

Monsters Inc. is a great time for kids and parents alike.  Funny, fast, and endlessly imaginative, this superb double disc offering is one of the year's best DVDs, bar none.  A must own.

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