In the early days of Pixar's world domination, this little film about a universe where monsters harness the fear of human children which they frighten at night (through their closets) to use as energy came out and although on paper it sounds like the most terrifying thing you'll ever see, the movie was quite the opposite.
Aimed at younger viewers, Monsters Inc. is closer to, say, the likes of A Bug's Life or Cars in terms of its target audience but better than both. Thankfully, it's just about charming enough to keep older viewers' interest there throughout. We follow two monsters, one voiced by John Goodman, the other by Billy Crystal, who mistakenly end up with a kid human transcending the human world into their own. This causes all sorts of shenanigans, as you can imagine, since children are seen as the monsters in this world, and it all builds up to a confrontation with Steve Buscemi's chameleon-style monster (the last part of that phrase sounds a bit weird). This being early Pixar, the visuals are good but not great, they already look a bit dated compared to the new stuff, but not distractingly so. The designs of the monsters and especially the settings still look pretty cool for the time.
It's a sweet movie with a lot of heart, it's also very creative and does a brilliant job with a unique(-ish) premise. The whole way the doors work etc. is a bit shaky if you think about it for two seconds but this is really more of a fable than it is anything else so it still works, you can't really nitpick stuff like that. The final chase through a seemingly infinite warehouse of doors, each leading to a real place, is still a lot of fun and really clever. The voice cast does a great job but in the end you do wish that they had given both Billy Crystal and John Goodman sharper, funnier lines instead of limiting them to supporting characters to a nonsense-talking little girl. Now I'm not saying the movie should have been darker or anything, hell, I still have nightmares about that kid robot those monsters use when they simulate scares, but sharper, more consistent jokes would have been nice. For adults, Monsters Inc. isn't quite as funny or as fascinating as it should have been but kids will have a blast. This is back when Pixar where still trying out their visuals and their ideas and the result is an enjoyable blend of naive 50's style paranoia and surreal lighthearted slapstick. I would say it's completely original but if you know about the movie Little Monsters then you'll probably yell at me and tell me I'm wrong, and you'd be right.
Overall, while really more of an experiment than a life-changing or even life-affirming movie, Monsters Inc. works as a kids flick thanks to its charm, its surreal visuals and its larger-than-life characters. Oh, and Billy Crystal's sarcastic remarks. It's no Finding Nemo, Wall-E or Up but it's a cute little flick and younger viewers will go nuts for it.
(except to Little Monsters)