Before I get to the review, I want to mention that I saw this at the crappy theater in holland. The sound system is super assy, and the screen is kinda small. I've seen many movies here, but the Holland 7 always kinda taints a movie for me just because the theater is dirty and the sights and sounds aren't to par with a state of the art theater. Also our showing was led off by the Star Wars Episode II trailer (which wasn't really very interesting) and a Pixar short. I love shorts before films. I wish that this was standard practice. All movies. At least, all comedies anyway, should start off with a short. And this one was hilarious.
Since this is a computer animated film, I'm gonna start by talking a little about the CG. I don't feel like Monsters Inc has hugely advanced the state of the art for computer animated graphics with this film. There are however exceptions: especially in James, John Goodman's character. They hair system they used on the gigantic blue-with-purple-spots monster is simply stunning. There are some scenes where I simply couldn't take my eye off of it. Also the finale which takes place in a gigantic room with a roller coaster like system of children's closet doors whizzing through the air is absolutely a site to behold.
There are other exceptins too, but really what Monsters, Inc. has done is taken the state of the art CG that pixar has perfected, and used it to tell a story. And I think that it might be awhile before a movie comes a long and is able to up the ante as much as Toy Story and Toy Story 2 did. I think this is much more akin to a Bug's Life, where they broke less new ground in the rendering techniques, and instead tried to do more with the characters.
The look of the film is simply stunning. The warm tones of past pixar movies have been chucked out the door for blues and purples and neon green. But when monsters pass into the human's world, you feel as if you might be back in Toy Story... but why would you want to when this world is so interesting? The centerpiece is the Monsters, Inc factory which has a look that is sorta like a factory with a bit of airport stirred in. But then all skewed. Thats where this movie has really taken off: previous Pixar efforts have all taken place in a relatively believable world (assuming that you believe bugs or toys can talk). They take place in a subset of our world. But MI takes place in what might be thought of as a parallel world with gateways (read:childrens closet doors) back to ours. So the artists were given a chance to truly create something unique.
Now I'm going to try to give you a brief summary of the plot without spoiling anything. The main characters are the blue and purple hairy James (John Goodman) and the little green one eyed Mike (Billy Crystal). The main enemy is a chameleon monster named Randall (Steve Buscemi). Other notable smaller parts are voiced by Frank Oz and John Ratzenberger.
Anyway, James and Mike work at Monsters, Inc. The factory is a power plant... but in Monstropolis, they don't use coal or natural gas. Rather they use the power generated by the screams of children. Using a complex system where doors open into Children's Closets, the monsters run in, get their scream, and the juice is collected. It's dangerous work because children are lethal to monsters. One touch, and a monster is dead! James is the best scarer of all time... until his rivalry with Randall goes wrong, and a little girl (nicknamed 'Boo') accidentally comes back to Monstropolis.
The bulk of the show then revolves around Mike and James dealing with this tiny (and adorable) "Monster" that they have accidentally been stuck with. While trying to get her home, protect her from the Bad Guys, and unraveling the secret plot, good times are had by all.
The voice acting is all fairly solid. And I'm not particularly fond of Billy Crystal any more. I was really worried that his baggage was going to carry over into the character and his lame humor would drag everything down. But they /almost/ never let that happen. And Goodman just has great charisma as a voice. What a lucky man. I'd kill to get to be a voice in a Disney or Pixar film, and he's already got a chance to do both! (To say nothing of practically having a guaranteed part in every Coen bros. movie. What a sweet gig!). But as you would expect, all the voice acting was top notch.
The score was excellent for the film. I'm not going to comment on the sound effects because (as I said above) I saw this film in a crappy theater so its just not fair for me to mention that the audio clipped a bit in places and the surround sound effects weren't very good. I purely blame my theater.
Worth noting is that this is the first Pixar film not directed by John Lasseter, and I think it shows. The pixar trademark of being family friendly, but just skewed enough to make it fun for adults is definitely strong here, but MI is a little edgier then its predecessors.
Pixar's deal with the devil (read:disney :) is almost at an end, and I'm really interested to see what they're going to do after they have free reign to create films on their own. But as long as they are producing films as solid is this one, I'll continue to show up to the theater on opening night. The eye candy. The humor. It's just a class act in an age where most movies have none. I still think TS2 is a better film, but you're not going to see many better all-ages movies this year. Unless of course Harry Potter is everything it could be...