Universal Monsters, Inc.

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Brace yourselves, because the new computer animation from the technical wizards responsible for Toy Story and A Bug's Life is going to be the monster hit of the year. Monsters, Inc. is pure, unabashed, feelgood family entertainment, boasting dazzling visuals, lovable characters and a script crammed to bursting with gags. James P Sullivan, aka Sulley (voiced by John Goodman), and pint-sized best friend Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) are the top monsters in the child-scaring business. Working out of Monsters Inc. ("We Scare Because We Care"), the largest scream-processing factory in Monstropolis, the fun-loving double-act scare countless unsuspecting moppets by leaping out of wardrobes and hiding beneath bed-clothes. Monstropolis is powered by human screams so it is imperative that Sulley and his monster colleagues meet their daily targets. Alas, 21st century children are much more difficult to scare than ever before (must be the overexposure to violent television programmes and video games), and the city is in the grip of a fuel crisis. Henry J Waternoose (James Coburn), the big boss at Monsters, Inc. is acutely aware that the fate of thousands of monsters rests in the paws, tentacles and claws of his loyal employees. Humans are forbidden in the monster world - they are considered a health risk - so when Sulley accidentally brings a human girl named Boo into Monstropolis, all hell breaks loose. Officers from the CDA (Child Detection Agency) patrol the streets, scanning for any homo sapien threat. Meanwhile, Sulley and Mike reluctantly hide out at their apartment with Boo, desperately formulating a plan to return her to the human world. Gradually, the pair's fear of the little girl blossoms into affection, and Sulley finds himself becoming fiercely protective of her. Unfortunately for our hapless heroes, rival monster scarer Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi) suspects they are harbouring the girl. Randall would love to see nothing more than his rivals fall from grace, and he sets a cunning trap which could Sulley and Mike cast out from Monstropolis forever. As children, we are terrified by stories of monsters in the closet, and convince ourselves that leaving the light on at night will limit the chances of a surprise attack. Monsters, Inc. beautifully taps into these universal childhood concerns, creating a wonderfully witty story of love and adventure that will inspire laughter and tears in equal measure. Goodman and Crystal are on top form, lending their distinctive vocals to Mike and Sulley. The screenplay provides them with plenty of big laughs, but the ad-libs are equally hilarious. Buscemi is delightfully loathsome as the villain of the piece, and Jennifer Tilly provides plentiful light relief as Mike's medusa-like love interest Celia, who works as the receptionist at Monsters, Inc. Look out too for the hysterical end-of-credits out-takes, complete with fluffed lines, misplaced props and collapsing scenery. The quality of the animation is truly astounding, from the level of detail on the main characters (such as the realistic movement of Sulley's bright blue fur) to the colourful backgrounds. There are sly in-jokes everywhere for eagle-eyed viewers - one of the restaurants is called Harryhausen's, named after the pioneering animator. And if that wasn't good enough, you also get a fantastic short film before the main feature, in which a flock of small birds learn the price of bullying. Move over Shrek - there's a new animated king in town.

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