The fourth Pixar movie is one of the best. It’s a wonderful concept. There really are monsters in children’s closets, and they really do try to scare kids. Why? Energy. They store the energy from the screams to power Monstropolis. The catch is, the monsters are terrified of human children. If one were to escape through the space warps they create behind literally millions of closet doors (and believe me, we see millions of them), catastrophe could follow. So there are specialists in scaring, and the best is a huge blue-furred critter named James P. Sullivan (John Goodman) with his trusty sidekick Mike Wazowsky (Billy Crystal), who is essentially a giant eyeball with arms and legs. A girl who sounds and walks like she’s about two years old gets through the security, and Mike and Sully have to deal with it. Along the way, Sully grows to love her. That’s basically it, though of course there are many complications. No two monsters are alike—and I’d like to know just how many they designed and animated, but can’t find the answer. If anyone knows, please write. It’s funny. I can find out how many hairs are on Sully’s body (2,320,413; it took 11 to 12 hours to do a single frame of the dude, and he’s onscreen for most of the movie!), but I can’t find the number of monsters.
All action movies have some variation of the roller coaster ride these days, and this one is more fun than most, with endless conveyor rails and rows and files of closet doors, and the characters swinging from one to another. There are clever jokes about the perils of being one sort of monster or another, like the jelly creature who oozes over a sidewalk grate and slips through, leaving only his facial features. There is a great tribute to the king of stop-motion animation, in the name of a restaurant: Harryhausen’s. Goodman and Crystal are very good, as is all the voice cast including Steve Buscemi and James Coburn in one of his last roles. (He died about a year after this.) They continue the tradition of “outtakes” they started with A Bug’s Life, and have even more of them on the DVD.
The movie opened with a short called “For the Birds,” another Pixar tradition, and they later transformed a cut scene into another short, “Mike’s New Car.”