Monster mash

Super-smooth Pixar animation and celebrity voices fuel the enjoyable children’s animation fantasy Monsters, Inc.

CRITTERS CROSSING Sully and Mikey, the two main characters from Pixar’s <i>Monsters, Inc.,</i> cross the street into box office glory.

CRITTERS CROSSING Sully and Mikey, the two main characters from Pixar’s Monsters, Inc., cross the street into box office glory.

Monsters Inc.
With the voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi, James Coburn and Jennifer Tilly. Directed by Pete Decter. Rated G.
Rated 3.0

There’s a parallel universe, an energy crisis, some would-be scary monsters, and a lost child in the latest animated feature from Pixar. But Monsters Inc., which was co-produced by Disney, is too good-natured and chummy to get bogged down in the darker potentials and implications of its premises.

The amiably wacky critters that populate Monsters Inc. are “scream collectors” who work for the title corporation and reside in the company town of Monstropolis. Their job is to collect the power of children’s screams, which is the chief energy supply for the city-universe in which they live. Stuffed-animal types like the affable Sully and the scheming Randall enter children’s bedrooms through the corporation’s enormous stock of proverbial closet doors and elicit screams that they collect in cylindrical contraptions before returning, via the same closet, to the factory and their energy-strapped environment.

Sully is a fuzzy-looking purple-and-green gorilla with a dopey-sweet expression on his face. His sidekick Mikey looks like an oversized M&M with arms, legs, mouth and single eyeball. And Sully’s rival Randall, a violet six-limbed lizard, is plotting to kidnap kids into Monstropolis’ depths for full-time exploitation of their screams.

When Sully and Mikey find they’ve accidentally discovered one of Randall’s potential victims, a 3-year-old girlchild named Boo, Monster Inc. becomes an old-fashioned melodramatic adventure (rivalries and rescues) in new-fangled circumstances (sci-fi antics in surreally altered time and space).

The voices of John Goodman (Sully), Billy Crystal (Mikey), Steve Buscemi (Randall), and James Coburn (the ominous corporate crab, Mr. Waternoose) make lively and charming contributions to the key characterizations. But the super-smooth Pixar animation excels in subtle details of body language and emotional characterization as well as in its great bursts of cartoon comedy and action.

The energy crises and corporate manipulations in the storyline are played mainly for feel-good comedy and romance, with only the barest inkling of barbed satire. The yellow, rubber-suited, Gumby-like troops from the CDA (Child Deletion Agency) may briefly evoke real-life contamination crises, but Monsters Inc. mostly steers a steadily amusing course in comic fantasy. And it’s at its best with inventively surreal stuff like the cavernous warehouse of doors and Randall’s electric chameleon antics.

The Pixar short, For the Birds, precedes the feature and makes for an amusing addition to this G-rated program.