My tween and I met up with some old friends from the city for a movie today, and the lack of kid and tween movies this holiday season is appalling. My tween had already seen the Cirque du Soleil movie and wasn't impressed. I didn't feel like having a discussion about prostitution and thus wanted to pass on Les Miserable. That left us with Monsters, Inc. 3D, which turned out to be a decent choice.
In 2001, Pixar first released the tale of monsters James "Sully" Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal). They are both employees of the power company, Monsters, Inc., who obtain the screams of children frightened by monster in their bedroom and those screams are converted into power. The company and the monster world are put in jeopardy when a little girl escapes from her bedroom and into the factory. Sully and Mike end up with the adorable little girl, whom they call "Boo" for her efforts to scare them, and work to get her safely back home. In the process, they uncover an evil plot at the factory, a few very bad guys and some unexpected solutions to their problems.
The story has remained fresh, and doesn't seem dated despite the 11+ years since its initial release. The brightly colored monster world is not as amazing as more recent Pixar releases, but was still a visual treat on a dreary day and while I don't think 3D is entirely necessary (I saw the movie when it came out and remember being impressed with the visuals then), it did add an extra layer of visual wonder.
This was a girls' afternoon out, with two tweens who are both 10 years old, one 7 year-old and two moms. Here are the reviews:
The Tweens: Both girls gave it two thumbs up. One said she would rate it 9 on a scale of 10, the other was a little less enthusiastic but didn't commit to a number. I was worried going in that the movie would be a bit too "young" or "babyish" for them, but my tween said that while she thought it was a little on the young side, she still enjoyed it.
Just observing the girls, they laughed more as the movie went on and the plot thickened. The most laughter, though, may have come during the credits which featured "out takes" of the animated characters. They also liked the end of the movie with an assembly-line of doors and in 3D, it really did feel like you were on a roller coaster ride. This was the part where the 3D was most impressive, and the girls thought it was fun. Another highlight, they said, was when the bad guy met a satisfying end. I think this shows that tweens still like clear cut stories with characters to root both for and against, and this movie provides an ample supply of both.
The tweens were excited to spot other Pixar characters in the movie, including a Nemo toy and Jessie doll from Toy Story in Boo's bedroom, showing that they've grown up with Pixar movies.
The 7 Year-old: She liked it, too. She particularly enjoyed one part that featured children's bedrooms from around the world, from the Caribbean to Paris to Japan. In fact, all of us listed it as one of our favorite parts of the movie.
The Moms: Both moms enjoyed the movie, but felt it was more of a kid movie than other recent releases. We thought that Despicable Me, for example, had a level of humor appealing to adults that Monsters, Inc. was missing.
Pixar has spoiled parents over the past decade with movies that talk to parents as well as kids, and that aspect isn't as present in Monsters, Inc. The Toy Story trilogy and Finding Nemo had story lines that appealed directly to parents (see the number of tissues I required at the end of Toy Story 3 or the fact that "Kill the motor, dude" from Finding Nemo is one of my favorite parenting mantras). Monsters, Inc. has no parent character and while Sully is protective of Boo, and Mike gets attached to her as well, it is a different relationship, one that just isn't as relatable to moms and dads.
That said, there's a lot for a parent to appreciate in this movie. The humor wasn't bathroom humor. There's a lot of parent/tween conversation starters in the film, in terms of both assumptions and their basis (or lack thereof), of what commonalities link children across the globe, good being more powerful than bad (in this case, it is literally true), energy sources, corporations, and more.
Monsters, Inc. 3D may not be the best Pixar movie, but it isn't a bad one, either. In a season with very few offerings for families, it's a good choice. It may be best suited for younger tweens, but it's worth a shot. The movie was released now as a set up for Monsters University, a prequel that will be released this summer. That may be a better tween bet, but it will be more appreciated after seeing Monsters, Inc. 3D.
Have you and your kids seen Monsters, Inc. 3D yet? Let us know what you thought in the comments.
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