When I saw Monsters, Inc. in its original theatrical run, it was just the fourth film from Pixar and only the sixth computer animated film ever made (Shrek had just been released a few months prior). So I had no idea I was in the middle of Pixar’s incredible streak – but I loved it then and I love it now. And as my daughter is getting old enough to sit still for a 90 minute movie, I figured the time was right to introduce her to what I still consider Pixar’s best film. But knowing how fickle three-year-olds can be, I decided to “rent” rather than “buy” from iTunes. That proved to be a good instinct. Because as good as Monsters, Inc. is, it’s not exactly for three-year-olds.
I don’t mean that as a slam. It’s clearly great for adults, and I think in three years it’ll be great for my daughter. But its relatively simple plot – two monsters named Mike (Billy Crystal, less annoying than in live action) and Sully (John Goodman, perfect in every way) are forced to take care of a little girl they call “Boo” – puts a lot of emphasis on child-friendly concepts like power shortages and corporate malfeasance. That said, the film moves briskly and doesn’t feel overstuffed despite the fact that most of its first 30 minutes are world building and exposition-heavy dialogue.
And it is funny. The jokes are fast and clever, if a bit over three (and probably six) year-old heads. As a parent, I found Boo entirely TOO realistic, and her mindless parroting of “Mike Wazowski” cracks me up every time. My daugher loved the same things Boo loved: the scene of Mike falling in the waste basket and having his mouth stuffed with books absolutely cracked her up.
What I appreciated, however, and what made me fall in love with Monsters, Inc. in the first place is its sweetness. We watched it twice over the weekend – thanks for the 24 hour rental, iTunes – and I cried at the end each time. And then again when I tried to explain to my wife, who missed the end, what happened. And that’s not just because I’m a sappy parent – I remembering crying just as hard as a snarky twenty-something.
So apparently the upper limit of its audience is thirty-eight (and counting). Now I just need to find out the lower limit, and then it’s time to choose “buy.”