Classic Intel: Monsters, Inc. - Blu-ray Review

'morality, loyalty, friendship and corporate greed, as well as a keen undercurrent of some of the best office environment satire you’ll find on screen'

Only the third of Pixar’s features - after Toy Story and Cars - to receive a second installment, Monsters, Inc. holds the distinction of being the first of the studio’s efforts to generate a prequel with Monsters University playing in cinemas as I write. Still a curious commodity in many ways, prequels have arguably a less robust track record than the more common sequel (ask George Lucas for further details). The key to a successful prequel is having enough background to the original story worth filling in and fleshing out into its own tale, whilst at the same time doing the original film justice. Whilst I have yet to see what Monsters University has to offer, it’s clear to me to see why Monsters, Inc. was the standout candidate to generate Pixar’s premier prequel.

Central to Monsters, Inc.’s success is the double act of Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) and James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (John Goodman). Both actors give predictably impressive and versatile performances, laced with humour and emotion in exactly the right balance and fitting their respective monsters perfectly.

What elevates Mike and Sulley further is the chemistry Crystal and Goodman share - arguably as strong as the perfect pairing of Hanks and Allen’s Woody and Buzz in Toy Story. But whilst Pixar’s flagship duo spend their inaugural outing as rivals before becoming a double act, Mike and Sulley are already there. It’s clear from the pair’s opening moments on screen that theirs is a well-established friendship that has lasted through thick and thin; it’s thanks to Crystal and Goodman’s performance together, coupled with Pixar’s stellar animation, that this comes across so beautifully throughout Monsters, Inc.

The film’s universe allows Pixar once again to flex their artistic muscle after the relatively safe A Bug’s Life, the only other non-Toy Story picture at this point in the studio’s filmography. The inhabitants of Monstropolis are imaginative and vibrant in their design, providing plenty of visual humour along the way.

The way in which the “Monsters, Incorporated” factory is realised is also impressive, echoing the corporate style of a business whilst never feeling cold or soulless. Culminating with the breathtaking finale featuring a chase through the factory’s vault of doors, Monsters, Inc. is still one of Pixar’s most visually impressive features over a decade after its release.

Even having considered the film’s superb performances and first class animation, arguably its strongest feature is the sheer inventiveness behind so many of its concepts. Presenting supposedly fearsome creatures as regular schmoes just trying to earn a living is inspired. The subversion of the traditional relationship between children and monsters is also pure genius, providing a compelling central story as well as many laugh-out-loud moments.

Layered within this we find strands concerned with morality, loyalty, friendship and corporate greed, as well as a keen undercurrent of some of the best office environment satire you’ll find on screen. Monsters, Inc. is undoubtedly one of the richest and most heart-warming of all of Pixar’s back catalogue, and yet much of the depth is subtly implied, making it one of their most perfectly crafted gems of all.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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