Thursday, November 13, 2014

Blast from the Past Movie Review: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Last weekend, I watched The Nightmare Before Christmas as part of Myopia: Defend Your Childhood. Here's the actual podcast. I haven't seen the movie in its entirety until now, so here goes...

In this stop-motion animation film from the early 1990s, Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town is getting rather tired of doing the same-old, same-old. After going for a thoughtful walk and losing track of time, he comes across doorways to towns representing other holidays, including Christmas. Jack decides to give Santa Claus a break and give Christmas a try, self-absorbedly oblivious to the warnings of shy love interest Sally that this is going to end in disaster and the notion that maybe he should perhaps ask Santa before usurping his holiday.

The Good

*The movie is very creative. As far as I know it's completely original, not even based on any sort of prior fairy tale the way most Disney films are. Granted, there are some horror-movie tropes like a mad scientist and a werewolf still wearing most of his human clothes, but that's pretty small potatoes. It's a stop-motion (more on that later), rather macabre fairy tale and that's kind of cool.

*Visually, it's well put-together. Stop-motion animation is an incredibly cumbersome, difficult process, but it's very well-done in the film.

*I like the characterization of Jack and Sally, the male and female leads. Jack is enthusiastic and well-meaning but too unbelievably self-absorbed to listen to anyone telling him that what he's planning is a bad idea, while Sally is in love with Jack but too shy to actually say anything about it. She also wants her freedom from her overbearing creator Dr. Finkelstein, but is too kind-hearted to truly harm him--whenever she wants to go out she puts him to sleep with nightshade in his soup and then tucks him in.

*There are some funny bits, like Jack discovering that antiaircraft guns (yes, you heard that correctly) are actually being fired at him rather than some kind of fireworks show celebrating his macabre usurpation of Christmas and just how Sally manages to distract the villainous Oogie Boogie from her attempt to rescue the captive Santa Claus.

*There are some good songs, including one where a trio of evil child minions of Oogie Boogie assigned by Jack to abduct Santa Claus sing morbidly about just what they're going to do to him.

*As I've said before, I strongly object to the hero being too "pure" to finish a villain and so the villain has to kill themselves. I liked that Jack and Santa both deal decisively with the monstrous Oogie, which you can watch here  (skip the Beetlejuice clip that's at the beginning for some reason) if you're so inclined.

The Bad

*It's not a very exciting movie. In fact, it's actually pretty dull. It's a very pretty pretty dull movie, but it's still rather boring. That's the primary flaw, but it's a pretty big flaw given how the movie is just over an hour and fifteen minutes.

*Jack Skellington's song about how he's depressed and bored with Halloween goes on too long. It didn't make me depressed and bored, fortunately, but it's best not to trifle with such things. Kind of a microcosm of the actual movie.

The Verdict

See it once, if that. Great concept, but not entertaining even if it isn't, strictly speaking, bad. 6.5 out of 10.

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