The movie, as anyone who saw it originally or has a child between the ages of 3 and 11 knows, takes place in the fantastical land of Monstropolis, where monsters sneak through dimensional portals (doors) into the rooms of small children to scare them (the chief source of energy in Monstropolis is human screams). But when Monstropolis' top scare-generators, Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sulley (John Goodman), accidentally let a human child into their world, all hell breaks loose, and the two monsters have to scramble to get the child (who they have named Boo) back into the human world. Along the way they've got to restore normalcy to Monstropolis (which is under a severe "scream shortage") and discover what role their rival Randall (Steve Buscemi) has in a company-wide conspiracy.
This is particularly evident in the creation of this parallel world and all of the "rules" of the universe – like how all of the monsters that are regularly captured on film in the human world (Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti) were banished from the monster realm; and the mechanical system that the monsters use to get to the other side, which climaxes in the jaw-dropping "door chase" (more on that in a minute). Not everything works, but what does, really leaves an impression and makes up for the movie's other shortcomings.
"Monsters, Inc." is a Pixar movie particularly suited for the 3D conversion that has retrofitted "The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast" and "Finding Nemo" in recent months. The monster world is an incredibly tactile one, and the newly dimensional version gives every image some real oomph – the bristle of Sulley's fur, the epic vastness of the "Scare Floor," and, most importantly, the aforementioned door chase. Ah the door chase! There's a "Monsters, Inc."-themed attraction at Disney California Adventure and the most eye-widening moment is the one that recreates the door chase. Being any closer to that moment is almost transcendent, and seeing it in 3D, with the doors whooshing past, is truly astounding. (It makes the promise of next summer's college-set prequel "Monsters University," which will be released in 3D, even more exciting.)
But more than any 3D whiz-bang moment, the thing that makes "Monsters, Inc." such an enduring gem is its underlying emotion. It's easily one of the most heart-tugging Pixar movies (director Pete Docter would go on to craft the three-hanky-worthy "Up" for the studio) and that comes through, whether flat or newly bumpy. Boo is a really wonderful emotional center for a movie that pushed (at the time, anyway) the comfortable bounds of surrealism for the studio, and her arc is what makes it so satisfying, instead of merely being collection of expertly delivered jokes and colorful characters. These monsters might be all about the scares, but "Monsters, Inc." is all about the heart. [A]