November 5, 2001 [Monsters, Inc.]

Monsters, Inc. knows children almost as well as Toy Story or My Neighbor Totoro--and that’s saying plenty.  And maybe I don’t mean their secret lives, their hidden games and fears and intricate little pleasures, the relative leisure they have--or give themselves--to notice the filigreed surface of everything, the wrinkles and runnels of tree-bark and a baseball’s mottled curve, the tiny canteen on the belt of the tiny plastic soldier, the doll’s ant-antennae eyelashes, the faces in wallpaper patterns, the cracks between the seams of everything--the things they see when they’re doing nothing, just lying there with chin on the floor.  

But little Boo in monster-land tells the truth about the child’s voice, the moods of the wordless babble of late toddlerhood, the sharp turns she takes, the tender surprise she feels at the touch of those candy-colored clowns, amazingly furry CGI’d cutie-pies--John Goodman in particular, so deep into monster Sulley that it felt like he was in the movie for real in a tender monster suit, curling Boo in his arms.  Even her terror is honest, sudden and absolute--and just as quickly gone as long as someone, even a monster, lets her know she’s safe.  Despite the helter-skelter of the movie, at its core it hums the electric song of childish terror as well as the squirming scary-joyful abandon of tickling-time.


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