It really is getting to the point where I’m running out of things to say about 3D rereleases, which doesn’t bode well for me, as I have yet to experience the updated versions of Jurassic Park, the second and third episodes of Star Wars, Independence Day, and of course, The Little Mermaid, the next (and so far, the last) on Disney’s schedule. In spite of this, I find myself in the position of reviewing Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. 3D, which comes on the heels of this year’s 3D rereleases of Finding Nemo and Beauty and the Beast. Naturally, I want you to see this movie. It’s just as funny, imaginative, exciting, heartfelt, and timely as it was in 2001, to say absolutely nothing of its wonderful animation, excellent voice cast, and visually magnetic color scheme. For older audiences, it will be a nostalgic journey. For younger audiences, it will be a welcome chance to see the film on the big screen – or, better yet, to see it for the first time.
But there’s really no reason to spend the extra money on a 3D viewing experience. Apart from the fact that it doesn’t add anything to the story, it also isn’t all that impressive, most likely because it was converted in post-production. It has successfully been applied to a few of the Disney rereleases, namely Beauty and the Beast and Finding Nemo, but it has never been necessary. You would be much better off seeing it in good old fashioned 2D so that you can actually focus on the characters and the story. And now I sound like a broken record, because that’s the advice I typically give to my readers. How many more times do you want me to say the same thing? How many more times can I say the same thing and yet maintain my sanity? There are some repetitive behaviors I’m comfortable with. This isn’t one of them.
Now that I’ve gotten that rant off of my chest, let me turn my focus to the ways in which I appreciated this rerelease. First and foremost, there’s the pleasure that came with seeing a film I enjoyed on the big screen once again. The story, in which monsters from a parallel universe use closets to enter human children’s bedrooms and collect screams as a form of energy, is fun and inventive. The monster characters, appropriately made to look bizarre but not too scary, are infused with humor and heart. We immediately respond to the chemistry between best friends/roommates Mike Wazowski, a one-eyed green ball with arms and legs (voiced by Billy Crystal), and James “Sulley” Sullivan, a hulk covered in blue and green fur (voiced by John Goodman). We respond even better to the chemistry between Sulley and a toddler girl nicknamed Boo (voiced by Mary Gibbs), who snuck into the monster universe through her closet door.
In some ways, I appreciate this movie more now than I did in 2001, at which point I was only eighteen years old. Back then, I didn’t pick up on several insider references aimed at the parents who dutifully took their children to see the film. Consider, for example, the fact that the monster city’s most popular sushi restaurant, Harry Hausen’s, is named after special-effects wizard Ray Harryhausen, known for claymation monster characters in films like Jason and the Argonauts and the original Clash of the Titans. I also hadn’t yet caught onto the now obligatory practice of casting John Ratzenberger in secondary roles, some more prominent than others. In this case, he voices a yeti eager to share snowcones with Mike and Sulley after they had been banished to the Himalayas.
I also now see that the film is a mild yet surprisingly timely commentary on energy crises and the need to find an alternative fuel source. To elaborate on this would spoil the ending, which shouldn’t be done even though the film is now eleven years old. Let it suffice to say that it goes hand in hand with an undercurrent of corporate corruption, fueled by a combination of laziness and desperation. Children are very unlikely to pick up on any of this, which is understandable, perhaps even appropriate. They might, however, keep it in the back of their minds and then recall it when they’re older, at which point they will understand what the filmmakers were alluding to. They might even realize that their parents probably got the joke and appreciated the fact that the filmmakers had them in mind as well as children when making the movie.
And then, of course, there are subtle hints of ignorance and bigotry, the monsters having been raised to believe, quite falsely, that human children are lethally toxic. Despite the heavy-handedness of this message, it does allow for some very funny scenes, such as a recurring gag of a monster repeatedly being accosted, shaved, and sterilized by a Hazmat-like government group called the Child Detection Agency. There’s also a brief but nonetheless effective moment when Boo sneezes onto Mike’s eye; in a panic, he sprays that area with disinfectant, causing him to scream in agony. These are the reasons you should go to see Monsters, Inc. 3D, preferably without the 3D part. It may not be the best of the Disney/Pixar lineup, but it’s high-spirited, creative, and highly entertaining.
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Walt Disney Pictures