Kids and movie monsters have a lot in common. They feel conspicuous. They stand out in a crowd. They can't make small-talk with grownups. They are always stepping on stuff and breaking it. Anything that goes wrong is blamed on them. Now it turns out they share something else.
Not only are kids scared of monsters, but according to ''Monsters, Inc.,'' monsters are scared of kids.
The new animated feature from Pixar reveals that it is true (as every child knows) that there are monsters in the bedroom closet, especially after the lights have been put out. What we did not realize is that the monsters are on assignment. A closet door, which by day leads to a closet, at night leads directly to Monstropolis, the world of monsters, which is powered by Scream Heat. The only reason monsters jump out of closets and scare kids is to collect their screams, which are to Monstropolis as power plants are to the rest of us.
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As the movie opens, Monstropolis faces a crisis: Kids are getting too hard to scare, and there's a scream shortage. ''Rolling blackouts'' are predicted. A complete energy shutdown is a possibility. Responsibility falls on the broad shoulders of a big blue monster named Sully (voice by John Goodman), who is the leading scream-producer. Sully looks like a cross between a gorilla and a bear. His best pal, Mike Wazowski (voice by Billy Crystal), is a green eyeball with arms and legs. Sully is brave and dedicated. Wazowski is phobic, frightened, and malingering. Together, they cover the spectrum of work traits. The sexy Celia (voice by Jennifer Tilly) has a crush on Wazowski. What she sees in him is beyond me, although if there is anyone who can figure out how to have sex with a green eyeball, that would be Jennifer Tilly. I can imagine her brassy voice: ''Blink! Blink!'' There must be villains, and this time they are Henry J. Waternoose (James Coburn), who looks like a crab crossed with a cartoon of Boss Tweed, and Randall Boggs (Steve Buscemi), a snaky schemer who wants to dethrone Sully as the champion scream collector. Their competition grows more urgent when a human child named Boo (voice by Mary Gibbs) goes where no human has gone before, through the closet door and into the monster world.
''Monsters, Inc.'' follows the two ''Toy Story'' movies and ''A Bug's Life'' from Pixar, and once again shows off the studio's remarkable computer-aided animation, which creates an uncanny sense of dimension and movement. Monsters, like toys and bugs, come in every conceivable shape, size and color, which must have been one of their attractions, and the movie is jolly to look at. And since the monsters are terrified of Boo, whose very name is a rebuke to their lifelong missions, there are screams and chases on both sides of the closet doors. (''There's nothing more toxic or deadly than a human child,'' Waternoose warns. ''A single touch could kill you!'') Speaking of those doors--turns out they're manufactured in Monstropolis, to such exacting specifications that no one ever figures out they didn't come with the house. The most entertaining sequence in the movie is a roller-coaster chase scene involving hundreds of doors on an endless conveyor line that loops the loop at a breakneck speed.
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Voice-over dubbing used to be what actors did instead of dinner theater. Now, with the multimillion-dollar grosses of the top animated films, it's a lucrative job that is finally getting the credit it deserves for the artistic skills necessary. Not everyone is a good looper, and stars like Goodman, Crystal, Coburn, Buscemi and Bonnie Hunt bring a dimension to the film that both borrows from their screen personas and kids them. As for the invaluable Tilly, she has the only voice that has ever made me think simultaneously of Mae West and Slim Pickens.
The animation of Wazowski is interesting because the animators apparently had so little to work with. Instead of an expressive face and a lot of body language, they're given, as one of the leads of the picture, an eyeball. Luckily, the eyeball has an eyelid, or maybe it's a brow, and with this to work with, the artists are able to supply him with all the facial expressions a monster would ever need--especially one without a face. It's a tour de force.
''Monsters, Inc.'' is cheerful, high-energy fun, and like the other Pixar movies, has a running supply of gags and references aimed at grownups (I liked the restaurant named Harryhausen's, after the animation pioneer).
I also enjoyed the sly way that the monster world mirrors our own, right down to production quotas and sales slogans. ''We Scare,'' they assure us, ''Because We Care.''
He may be absorbent and yellow and porous, but wring SpongeBob SquarePants out and he barely contains enough substance for one full-length film, much less three.
And yet, we now have “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run,” following in the sloshy footsteps of “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” (2004) and “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water” (2015). They’re all fine for the littlest of kids, who likely will delight in the zany adventures and colorful animation. Voiced as always by a reliable Tom Kenny, SpongeBob is deliriously enthusiastic about everything and he’s certainly pleasant company—a sunny diversion during these troubling times.
But much of what’s made the “SpongeBob SquarePants” TV series such a joy over the past 20-plus years is its zippiness. These quick bursts of entertainment, with their eccentric characters, surreal energy and silly wordplay, are perfect in bite-size bits. Stretched out to 90 minutes in “Sponge on the Run,” the pacing lags, the goofiness sags, and you discover over time that there’s not much holding these antics together. This latest film, written and directed by “SpongeBob” veteran Tim Hill, feels especially thin, as it’s actually a launching pad for “Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years.” The animated series—featuring a “Muppet Babies” version of SpongeBob and his pals meeting for the first time in their youth—just happens to begin airing on Paramount+ the same day as this movie in a bit of streaming synergy.
Again, if you’re a harried parent seeking some mindless happiness for your children and a little “me” time while you’re stuck at home, this is a totally suitable choice for everyone involved. Far be it for me to judge. I’m right there with ya. And there are a few celebrity cameos aimed more at grown-ups’ amusement. Just don’t expect anything groundbreaking—although this is the first of these films to be produced entirely through CGI, so at least there’s a visual slickness that’s novel.
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As always, SpongeBob is enjoying a blissful existence in the underwater world of Bikini Bottom, beginning each new day by cheerily greeting his pal, Patrick the starfish (Bill Fagerbakke), to the annoyance of the cranky Squidward (Rodger Bumpass). By his side is his big-eyed best friend, Gary the snail (which Kenny also voices in charming gurgles and groans), who’s as loyal as he is adorable. Seriously, you will find yourself saying: “Awww …” every time he’s on screen.
But one day, SpongeBob comes home from work at the Krusty Krab fast-food joint to the shocking discovery that Gary has been snail-napped. The vain King Poseidon (Matt Berry) has run out of face cream, and needs the mucus that snails like Gary provide to maintain his immaculate complexion. Naturally, the diminutive, villainous Plankton (Mr. Lawrence), rival restaurateur of Mr. Krabs (Clancy Brown), has something to do with the disappearance. In time, you, too, will be deeply saddened by the absence of Gary as it becomes increasingly obvious that he’s the best part of the movie.
So SpongeBob and Patrick set off on a road trip to rescue their mollusk mate from the clutches of the conceited king. Since they can’t drive, they get some help from a defective robot named Otto (voiced by an underused Awkwafina, who has a meatier role this week in Disney’s glorious “Raya and the Last Dragon”). Their destination is the royal palace in the Lost City of Atlantic City: a tacky and glittering metropolis where “Livin’ La Vida Loca” plays on a constant loop as you indulge your every desire. Along the way—in a mixture of live-action and animation, similar to the second “SpongeBob” movie—they encounter several colorful figures, the funniest being the head of Keanu Reeves inside a tumbleweed, leaning into his Zen persona as a sage named Sage. Appearances from Danny Trejo, Snoop Dogg, and Tiffany Haddish aren’t nearly as thought-out.
But the enduring power of friendship is the force that fuels this journey, as evidenced by the lengthy summer-camp flashback that serves as a sort of “This Is Your Life” celebration of SpongeBob’s kindness. It’s sweet, but it’s also a major detour. Still, until schools reopen nationwide—and your kids can return with their supplies stuffed inside their SpongeBob backpacks—you could end up in worse places.
- Do you have to totally grasp the 8 facets of speech, every single minor thing else in grammar might be built uncomplicated to suit