Monsters Inc (U)

Review by Jack Foley

Just when you thought Shrek had stolen the animation crown from Disney, Pixar - the creators of Toy Story and A Bug's Life - strike back with another monstrous gem.

Monsters Inc, boasting the vocal talents of Billy Crystal, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, is an ingenious, funny, touching and inspired romp that is guaranteed to appeal to audiences of all ages.

Set in an alternative reality called Monstropolis, where monsters draw on children's screams for their energy resources, the movie quickly establishes a terrific double act between Goodman's 'scare-king', Sulley, and Crystal's wise-cracking assistant, Mike, as they attempt to beat the all-time scream record with Buscemi's slippery opponent.

But things take a turn for the worse when Buscemi's attempt to cheat allows a child into Monstropolis and the adorable two-year-old girl, who is considered to be toxic to all monsters, sets about wreaking mayhem.

The girl, however, quickly becomes attached to Sully's big-hearted monster and the two establish a relationship that threatens to undermine his friendship with Mike and his shot at record-breaking glory.

Like Shrek, Monsters Inc challenges the audiences' perceptions of its central protagonists. Sulley may at first seem scary, as he ruthlessly extracts the screams of sleeping children by emerging from their cupboards late at night, but he is, in fact, just doing his job and quickly becomes affected by the girl's innocent charm, risking all to protect her.

The ensuing 'father/daughter' relationship is very well observed and quite moving, offering a nice break from the mayhem.

Visually, Monsters Inc is also a delight, packed with colour, all manner of creatures and some superbly-realised set pieces -with a late chase through numerous doors one of many awe-inspiring highlights.

Voice-wise, Goodman and Crystal strike the type of partnership which evokes memories of Morecambe and Wise in their heyday, while the likes of Buscemi, James Coburn and Jennifer Tilly all make the most of another frothy script.

While not quite as good as Toy Story, this is incredibly good fun from start to finish, rounded off with another set of brilliant out-takes during the end credits - and for the eagle-eyed Pixar fans among you, try counting the Toy Story references; there are several cameo appearances.