, Billy Crystal,
, Jennifer Tilly
Pixar more or less single-handedly resurrected the American animation industry, which in the nineties was in serious danger of becoming economically unviable. While teetering on the edge of folding themselves in the early days, they eventaully proved that computer animation can be every bit the artistic equivalent of the hand-drawn variety. This is their finest work, proving (in much the same way as the best Hayao Miyazaki films) that animation is not "just for kids," because it is built on the same principles and foundation: as any live-action film, storytelling and acting are the core, and if you have those, it doesn't matter what medium you use. However, it's likely true that this story could only have been done in animation, given the world it depicts would be incredibly difficult to realize any other way.
Sully (Goodman) and Mike (Crystal) work for the titular company, which harvests children's scream and turns them into energy - Sully is one of the 'monsters in the closer' from kids' nightmares. But it's getting harder to reach quota, and when a little girl, Boo, follows Sully into their world, she threatens to bring down their whole world, for children are regarded as highly-poisonous. Which I can certainly relate to. Eventually, our heroes realize that isn't quite the case, and also discover a plot by a rival to improve the harvesting process by kidnapping the victims and basically, "factory farming" the screams. Sully refuses to stoop down to that level, and having grown fond of their little visitory, decides he will return Boo [as he has named the girl, who is too young to speak actual sentences] to her own side, regardless of the personal cost.
It's completely engaging, with a script that has something for everyone, and speaks to both the child and the parent in all of us, without speaking down to either: every line is funny, necessary or both ("Using mainly spoons..." has entered the TC Towers vocabulary, as has, "Your stunned silence is very reassuring"). The voice-actors are perfect, too: while you may know their names, they have been chosen to fit their characters rather than as mere "stunt casting" [coughShrekcough], and even my heart is reduced to a marshmallowy mass at the sight and sound of Boo, who shows Sully that fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to... Oops, sorry: wrong series. And, while I may have disparaged the technical aspects above as less important, the film is impeccably-constructed, with a wealth of detail, meaning nine years later, we still find new things to appreciate each viewing. Exciting, funny and heart-breaking by turn, this is immensely satisfying cinema by any standard, clearly made with love and total dedication.