There’s a tendency to assume that the current spate of 3D reissues are entirely cynical: a way to squeeze a few extra pennies without doing a great deal. And that’s doubtless true in the majority of cases, but not with ‘Monsters Inc’. Instead, Pixar’s most conceptually complex film receives – both literally and figuratively – an important new layer, adding to its visual beauty and thematic richness.
The plot will be familiar by now: in the extra-dimensional city of Monstropolis the power grid runs on the screams of human children, caused and captured by the (otherwise perfectly friendly) monsters who creep through their closets every night. But when a particularly bold three-year-old sneaks through the portal into the monster world, it’s up to expert scarer Sully (voiced by John Goodman) and his one-eyed pal Mike (Billy Crystal, spot-on) to put her back where she belongs before the Child Detection Agency can get wind of their mistake.
Like every Pixar film, ‘Monsters Inc’ is crammed with detail and incident, but the unusually twisty plot is laid out so flawlessly that even small children have no problem keeping up. The humour is sillier and more offbeat than, say, the ‘Toy Story’ series, with the interplay between Goodman and Crystal resulting in jokes which feel wholly unexpected and off-the-cuff.
But it’s in the visuals that ‘Monsters Inc’ comes to life, from the jazzy, Norman McLaren influenced opening to the hilarious, shakycam amateur-dramatic recap over the closing credits. This is a movie obsessed with layers and our perception of them, worlds within worlds, and the ways we move between them. So the 3D adds not just depth but resonance, particularly in the dizzying finale, set in a seemingly infinite warehouse of doors, each of which opens on a different bedroom in a different part of the world.
After disappointments like ‘Brave’ and ‘Cars 2’, there’s some doubt as to whether this summer’s prequel, ‘Monsters Uni’, can maintain such lofty standards. But, for now, it’s enough to have this near-flawless original back on the screen, layers and all.