The Nightmare Before Christmas Movie Review

Just in time for Halloween and Christmas, the reissue of The Nightmare Before Christmas couldn't be more appropriate. With all of the attention thrown to "family films" in recent years, namely those starring pocket monsters and Nickelodeon characters, it's high time we raised the intellectual level of children's fare as well as the animation achievements of the movie studios. With that in mind, it was refreshing to revisit an animation classic on the big screen that still retains the originality and freshness it had seven years ago.

Nightmare is the story of one man's quest to discover his true purpose in life -- to look beyond the accolades of his peers, the achievements of his years, and the praise of his ego. Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweentown, is the main dude behind the Halloween holiday for kids everywhere. But during his reign as pumpkin king, Jack has somehow lost his understanding of his place in the world and the magic he creates with his Halloween holiday. After the completion of one particular Halloween season, Jack walks with a heavy heart and ends up discovering in the woods outside Halloweentown a grove of trees with doors to all of the other holidays in the world. Imagine his surprise to discover Christmastown, a far more impressive and uplifting holiday than Halloween, surrounded by happy elves making toys, and with good cheer all around.

Upon his return to Halloweentown, Jack decides to combine Halloween and Christmas together by kidnapping "Sandy Claws," employing all the residents of Halloweentown to build toys for children. He then aims to take over the role as primary joy-provider and gift-bearer to the children of the world, in the hopes of rediscovering the zest for life he once had. Alas, the co-mingling of Halloween and Christmas creates disastrous results involving shrunken heads, psychotic wooden ducks, a sleigh pulled by a phantom dog with a lighted nose, and a large, sinister, singing bag named Oogie Boogie

Tim Burton -- the man behind such great films as Ed Wood, Beetlejuice, Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and Edward Scissorhands -- is the creative force behind Nightmare. Originally, Burton authored a poem that became the basis of the storyline, and he was jointly involved in the production design of the film (though many mistakenly assume he directed the picture). The stamp of Burton is clearly everywhere in the film -- with bold colors, imaginative character design, and it's simple yet compelling story. The direction of Harry Selick, who also directed James and the Giant Peach, is strong, offering intimate views of the strange collection of characters. Also memorable are the songs in the film, written by former Oingo Boingo lead singer Danny Elfman, the next John Williams of film composing.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is intended for both the kid and adult in everyone. It's not just child's play for the holidays; it's a movie about how to be truly happy in a tough world, saying that all you need to do is just be exactly who you are, without compromise. What better message is there for Christmas?

Trick or treat? Treat.


The Nightmare Before Christmas Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: PG, 1993


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