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.

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.

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