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Qreview: ‘Monsters’ is a nice romp, but needs more heart

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Some grownups will enjoy Disney-Pixar’s latest venture, “Monsters, Inc.,” since the film is pretty entertaining on a few levels.

But there is a certain warmth that’s missing. It lacks the charm and heart that made Pixar’s “Toy Story” films so special. But, the important news for parents is that yes, this is definitely watch-able. You won’t pull out your hair like you did during “Pokemon.”

The concept is weaker than usual for an Apple Computers-owned, Pixar film. The premise could drive a short, but stretched out to feature length, the weak story becomes noticeable.

In the city of Monstropolis (a town completely made up of bright-colored, not-very-threatening monsters), James Sullivan (a purple bigfoot voiced by John Goodman) and his partner Mike Wazowski (a wise-cracking Granny Smith apple voiced by Billy Crystal) work to power the city with children’s screams. No kidding, honest. Every day they show up at a factory which matches a “scarer” (one who scares children) up with a door to a child’s bedroom. The monster pops through the door, terrifies the kid, the screams are collected and, I guess, refined into electricity.

Even though they’re essential in the monster world, human children are dangerous. If a monster comes in contact with anything that could have child “germs,” an elite detox team, The Child Detection Agency, swoops in, shaves and disinfects the unfortunate monster in under a minute’s time.

So it’s no surprise that when a human child wanders into monster town, all hell breaks loose. Not only is the C.D.A. on the lookout but devilish lizard Randall (voiced by Steve Buscemi) has a slimy interest. The kid is, of course, hiding out with Goodman and Crystal, who now have to figure out how to get her home without being arrested, or worse, banished (like the Abominable Snowman and The Loch Ness Monster before them).

In a kids’ film you can get away with just about anything. But a more important problem is with the characters, which are either underdeveloped or underutilized.

Billy Crystal is wonderful, stealing the scenes that he’s in, but he’s just a sidekick. Goodman is also first-rate, but is given little opportunity since he is confined to playing the straight man. When he’s paired with Billy Crystal the film can be excellent, but as the story progresses, Crystal takes a back seat to the kid (who can’t speak and relies on cutesy physical gags) and the film loses much of its humor.

Despite the huge box office numbers the film is sure to generate, I don’t think kids will fall in love with this one like they did with Toy Story 1 and 2. The film just needs some monster soul.

Reach Qguide reviewer Glenn ferrara by e-mail at timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 139.

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