Christmas Review: The Nightmare Before Christmas

A review by SLAMADAM!

Director:  Henry Selick

Starring: Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, and Danny Elfman

Plot: Jack Skellington, the Halloween version of Santa Claus, decides to skip Halloween and give the Christmas holiday a try.

 Review: Christmas movies are not unlike Christmas carols. The number of memorable additions has gone down significantly over the years. The likes of Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and It’s a Wonderful Life were one in a million. The ones made today are usually gimmicky or just retreads of older works. It is nice to see some injection of creativity, especially one that takes advantage of the Christmas tradition of stop motion animation and an unfortunately lost art.Tim Burton’s influence definitely bleeds through, regardless of him only producing and not actually directing. The Christmas season as seen through the warped Halloween lens makes for a surprisingly effective marriage. His gothic yet family friendly style never feels more at home than here. The film takes traditionally scary elements and makes them cute while not sacrificing their ferocity.Despite being a fantastically original piece of cinema, there definitely seems to be a much expanded upon retelling of the Grinch Stole Christmas, much better than the wasted Jim Carey vehicle. The biggest difference between this movie and the other two Grinch movies is its protagonist: Jack Skellington. Jack is a tall lanky skeleton who is put in charge of Halloween proceedings by all the monsters. Not unlike Santa Claus venturing out to deliver presents, Jack and the gang go out and scare people. He is an artist and a craftsman who takes a lot of pride in his work, but the never changing project is stunting his creativity. Rather than being an insufferable jerk who cannot stand the merriness, he simply longs for new opportunities for creativity which leads to him kidnapping Santa Claus and taking his job. His inner-monster inevitably peaks through and brings a more twisted holiday.

Like any Christmas family animated movie, it is teeming with music and dance numbers. Jack often sings with a gothic operatic voice, very fitting toward his monstrous yet tragic persona. The lyrics are often poetic yet silly, reading with the flow of a bedtime story, similar to Twas the Night Before Christmas (for obvious reasons). Almost the entire soundtrack follows that style except allowing Jack’s monster cohorts to be more themselves, while Jack tries to fight his nature. Punctuating the whole thing is a jazz influenced number led by the villainous Oogie Boogie,a bug stuffed ghoul with an insatiable appetite. It is disturbing to see just how merry he becomes to simply torture and salivate over his “prey.”

The Nightmare Before Christmas is Tim Burton by way of Rankin-Bass. A surprisingly effective holiday mash-up. It captures the meaning of both simultaneously making it an appropriate watch during either day’s festivities.

   TEN out of TEN