Friday, May 15, 2009

Up, Up, and a Monster

I love Pixar's films. I love that John Lasseter's film-making philosophy is "Quality is a great business plan". So, I'm understandably excited about the forthcoming Up, a movie for which I can devise no abbreviation (with the possible exception of U). I do have this one misgiving however, I'm not thrilled with director Peter Docter, so in preparation, I decided to re-watch his other contribution to the Pixar catalog, Monsters, Inc. (hey, finally a title I can't abbreviate, MI couldn't possible stand for anything else... could it?). (note: the punctuation is a little confusing here, but the comma and period in MI are, in fact, part of the title) A little background is, perhaps, in order.

M,I. and TS (that's Toy Story for those of you playing at home, and my god, have I gotten onto a bizarre digression) are my long-standing least favorite Pixar movies. This is still true, and I've made no secret about my general dislike for these two films. I saw them when they came out (when I was in college) and I didn't think they were bad, just boring. They lacked the charm of some of their predecessors. Recently I re-watched TS just on the grounds that everyone but me seems to like it and I couldn't really remember what I didn't like about it, and--lo and behold--I enjoyed it immensely. Who knew?

So what about Monsters, Inc.? Would it pass muster? Would it even pass a grammar checker?

Yes and no. Yes, it was better than I remembered. There were plenty of laughs and the characters are endearing and the whole thing generates some genuine emotion. But the film is not without its flaws. For starters, the story only mostly works. Some of the character actions seem motivated more by plot convenience than by actual character, and the deus ex machina ending is a little, well, deus ex machina. Mike's reappearance back in the monster world is left completely unexplained (it works as a joke, but they had just made a big deal about how there was no going back).

And there are some weird time issues that don't survive scrutiny. During the climax it's nighttime in Nepal, early morning wherever Boo's from (she speaks a little English, to the extent that she speaks non-gibberish), daytime in Paris and some island that looks like Hawaii (but isn't identified), and nighttime in the American South (likely the Southeast, since they routinely have "gators"). Also, Boo is gone for the better part of a day; did anybody in her world miss her? Okay, I'm overanalyzing the plot in the movie about monsters transporting themselves to kid's closets. Let's hear the legitimate complaints!

Fair enough. There's some glancing-but-not-unforgiveable scatalogical humor. Some of the background characters are annoyingly cartoony--specifically the fanboys that stop Mike and Sully on their way to the office. And the humans looked terrible in an uncanny-valley kind of way. Boo is moderately creepy. Moderately.

But, not unenjoyable. Not at all, even if it still is my least favorite.

Quick digression, the menus are non-navigable. Abby wanted to show me a specific feature and had to literally examine a flowchart in order to find it. Apparently all Disney DVD's are like this. I can't help thinking that Monsters, Inc. is a little worse than most in that the very first thing that loads when you pop in the Bonus Materials disc is a tutorial on how to navigate the disc. Thankfully, Pixar has gotten away from that, one of many Disney-tradition-departures.

Other mold-breakers include making consistently good movies (did you SEE Meet the Robinsons?), releasing them during the summer when they'll make money, and only making sequels when the story matches or bests the quality of the original. How is Disney still in business? Do they do anything well apart from lobbying for copyright laws that keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain and removing dead bodies from their theme parks (this is true, by the way--anyone who dies inside a park is taken outside before being declared dead, that way they can say "nobody dies at Disneyland" with a straight face)?

Mother of tangents. I seem to have gone off-topic and ended up in Pittsburg. Where was I?

So, to conclude, I'm feeling better about Peter Docter and U. That's Up. See? The abbreviation doesn't work. Incidentally, Up just premiered at Cannes and has already garnered 12 positive reviews (out of 12 total reviews) on Rotton Tomatoes, with more than one critic calling it the best film of 2009 (so far).

So, that'll be something fun to watch at the end of the month.


1 comment:

Amy said...

I love Monsters, Inc. but my problem with Boo was always Pixar's inability to commit to an age for this child.
She can run, but can't talk. She looks like a 1-year-old but can reason and draw like a 4-year-old. And apparently she's potty trained???
So either she's way older than she looks and is SEVERELY verbally delayed, or she's some sort of pint-sized prodigy that never needs a diaper change.