Sunday, March 30, 2014

Monsters Inc.


Things are starting to come together for my fabulous new stage musical masterpiece, Bridget Over Troubled Waters, an adaptation of the film, The Last Seduction. Barry Manilow, our composer, nearly has the score completed, lovely little jingle type melodies, all in haiku. I'm using this wonderful new theater piece as a means to introduce American audiences to the joys of kabuki theater. My darling Bob Mackie is hard at work on stunning costume designs with an Asian flair, but with the durability and sheen of American polyester fabrics and David Hockney has signed on as set designer, using motifs from traditional Japanese woodcuts to create a unique visual look for the upstate New York setting. Corey Haim and Corey Feldman are coming on board as the two male leads - their names will, I'm sure, draw the youth crowd and I'm looking forward to being dubbed the 'Musical of the New Millennium' and giving The Phantom of the Opera a run for its money... 

In the meantime, work continues on the
 What A Friend We Have In Cheeses commercials for the American Dairy Council. The shoot at Mount Rushmore, alas, did not go well. Our next few shooting days come up this next week. I have been given a luxurious Winnebago in which to travel and we will be driving to small towns throughout Appalachia and shooting against the timeless backdrop of the Great Smokies, changing foliage, and small town churches for that pure Americana look. The Zion AME choir quit after the unfortunate drenching with Cheez-Whiz the other day and I have a new set of backup dancers, some enchanting sylph like creatures borrowed from the ballet Trocadero de Monte Carlo. I am so looking forward to spending some time with some cultured continental Monegasques - the days should just fly by. 

Before retiring to pack all thirty-seven matching pieces of my Louis Vuitton for the trip, I just had time to attend the cinema and take in a new film. My choice was
 Monsters, Inc., a new animated film from Pixar studios, the Disney subdivision responsible for Toy Story and A Bug's Life. I had wanted to attend this film with a member of its target audience so went searching for a small child. I found one at the local playground but his mother kept swatting me with her purse and calling me names as I tried to load him into the limo so I was forced to do without the kid, depending instead on my inner child to help comprehend the film. 

Monsters, Inc.
 is the tale of a large aqua furry thing, sort of a cross between a Tyrannosaur and my Aunt Rachel's Easter Sunday suit, named Sully (voice by John Goodman) who lives in an alternate Monster dimension. There he works and plays with his best pal Mike (voice by Billy Crystal), the unholy offspring of a Cyclops and a Bartlett pear. The Monsters (and there are many of them, all more cute and cuddly grotesques than terrifying nasties), power their civilization by sending 'scarers', of whom Sully is the best, through the closet doors of the human world and then capturing the energy of scared children's screams. Unfortunately, in our jaded era, fewer and fewer children are scared by the monsters and their society is, therefore, undergoing an energy crisis. A competing scarer, Randall (voice by Steve Buscemi), a sort of purple chameleon thing with far too many legs, has a nefarious plot to solve the energy crisis and our heroes unwittingly stumble across it. 

Things get complicated when a human girl child, whom Sully dubs 'Boo', comes through her unguarded closet door and enters the world of the monsters. She's not frightened of the shaggy Sully (calling him 'Kitty') and seems to take the perversities of monster society in stride. Trouble is, monsters regard humans and their artifacts as exceedingly dangerous, hazardous materials. Little Boo is the equivalent of a suitcase full of plutonium to them and when she escapes into a Sushi bar called 'Harryhausen's' during the dinner rush, things start to get complicated. This is a Pixar/Disney film so you know that no matter how bleak things may seem to get for our heroes, everything will come out all right in the end.

Pixar, with every new film, becomes more and more competent with its digital animation. There are scenes which are breathtaking in their visual complexity and the animation detail is incredible. Every single hair in Sully's pelt or muscle under Mike's rubbery skin seems to move independently. The monsters are delightful. Each has its own way of moving and expressing him or herself in body language and speech pattern. A few frames are all that is necessary to develop an indelible character. Dan Gerson and Andrew Stanton's clever script gives even minor characters wonderful little moments which the Pixar animators relish. Even the backgrounds are full of throw-away gags as the monsters go about their daily business. The script, like all good child entertainments, operates on two levels. Superficially it's a straightforward adventure story which the kids will like. Underneath, there's a very adult satire of modern industry and social attitudes towards manufacturing. Supporting characters such as the crab-like boss (James Coburn) and Mike's gorgon/squid girlfriend (Jennifer Tilly), have lines that zing modern American attitudes and cultural mores.

The hazardous materials subplots, complete with yellow suited monster hazmat teams, couldn't be more timely; while the film was conceived and made long before 9/11, the over-reaction of the monsters to innocuous objects is given a new meaning by current headlines. Hopefully, America will see themselves in some of those scenes and learn to lighten up a little.

Some of the imagery is a little ghoulish and the pace is, at times, a bit manic, especially in the busy third act. It might be a bit much for very young children. Those over five who are self aware enough to differentiate film from life, however, should enjoy themselves very much. Like all quality kid films, it's worth attending even if you have no children for whom to buy tickets.

Child simulator. Unfiled paperwork. Helicopter search. Super trash compacter. Men's locker room talk. Medusa hair. Body shaving. 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer' influenced Yeti. Sno-cones. Door shredding.

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