The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas

2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5 out of 5 2.5

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As with Tim Burton’s prior protagonists Pee-Wee, Beetlejuice, and Batman, Jack Skellington, the misguided hero of 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (which receives an IMAX 3-D re-release this month), is a creature whose idiosyncratic personality consigns him to being something of an outsider in his own creepy-crawly community. The Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, Skellington rules his native soil of monsters and mutants with a despondency wrought from boredom—until, that is, a morose midnight stroll leads him to Christmas Town, where his heart is set ablaze by the merry sights and sounds of the Yuletide season. Determined to have his minions supervise Christmas rather than Halloween this year, Skellington comes to learn the foolishness of striving to be what one is not, a mistake never made by director Henry Selick’s unique stop-motion animated horror fantasia, which is narratively slight but never less than aesthetically inspired. Based on a Burton story full of his trademark ghoulishness and mordant wit, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a veritable bounty of visual delights, its distinctive character models (often giant rotund bodies with slender appendages and tiny hands and feet), environments (both the gray, oblique angle-infested Halloweentown and warm, cheery Christmas Town) and animation style (graceful in a slightly unreal way) giving the film an eccentric haunted-house beauty. The tall, twiggy Skellington’s stilt-like spider movements lend the many choreographed sequences an eerie elegance, and Selick’s knack for cluttering his frame with gags is impressive, never more so than during the Pumpkin King’s Christmas Eve impersonation of Santa, who’s been kidnapped and left to the devices of burlap sack ghost Oogie Boogie, and his delivery of sinister toys to innocent boys and girls. Yet whereas the film is a marvel to look at, it’s unfortunately not much in the song or story department, as Danny Elfman’s musical numbers are—save for the opening’s boisterous “This Is Halloween”—generally banal and unmemorable, and the plot, despite only having to fill out a paltry 76 minutes, ultimately as emaciated and insubstantial as its leading bags of bones.

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DVD | Soundtrack
Distributor
Walt Disney Pictures
Runtime
76 min
Rating
PG
Year
1993
Director
Henry Selick
Screenwriter
Caroline Thompson
Cast
Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, Danny Elfman, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Ken Page, Edward Ivory