A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

The Nightmare Before Christmas

December 14, 2010

The Nightmare Before Christmas

When I was working at Blockbuster the copy of this that we had on the shelf was rather hard to find in the computer. We had several versions of this movie listed, but the one we actually carried was actually to be found under Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. I’ll agree that this is a very Burton movie, but it’s more than that really. The character design and aesthetic are unmistakably Tim Burton, but then there’s the fantastic soundtrack and all the great songs, which are Danny Elfman at his absolute best. There’s also the deft direction of Henry Selick, who has a mastery of stop motion animation that is always fun to see in action. (We don’t own his adaptation of James and the Giant Peach, but we have reviewed and enjoyed his Coraline.) So perhaps it is more accurate to say that this is a converging of many great artists who shared a vision that came from Tim Burton’s sketchbook.

I’ve loved this movie since I first saw it in the theaters. I had the sound track on casette and would listen to it on my walkman (well my portable tape player – I don’t think it was actually a Sony) and in the tape deck at my father’s office while I was working there. I had the movie on VHS and watched it constantly. It’s just so charming and enjoyable.

The story here is not a complicated one. Jack Skellington is the undisputed leader of Halloweentown, the pand where all things related to Halloween come from. He is the master of everything thrilling and scary which makes Halloween exciting for children everywhere. But Jack is tired of the same old thing and longs for something more in his life. Then he stumbles upon Christmastown, where everything Christmasy comes from and he is enthralled. Upon his return to Hallowwentown he becomes determined to put on a Christmas of his own using all the resources and creativity of his crew of monsters, vampires, witches and such who normally are responsible for Halloween. It goes about as well as you would expect.

What brings this all to life is the wide array of fun characters that live in Halloweentown as imagined by Tim Burton. Halloweentown is sort of like the North Pole for freaks and rejects. If the Island of Misfit Toys from Rudolph had gathered together to create holidays and been a little darker and more Goth then this is what you would have seen. There’s a devil, a group of vampires, a couple witches, a mad scientist, a werewolf, Mr. Hyde (who has little men under his hat), an oozing lake monster (who must have been a real challenge to animate!) and so on. The nifty trick here is that Burton is able to make all these creatures macabre without being truly gruesome of frightening. They are just friendly folk who think that there is nothing more fun than jumping out to scare girls and boys.

As a musical of course most of the story here is told through song, and the catchy score is the work of the John Williams of slightly strange movies – Danny Elfman. This movie is full of songs that will stick in your head, with a jazzy upbeat feel to them even when they are about destruction and disaster. From the opening song that introduces you to Halloweentown and Jack himself I am caught up in the world and the sheer imaginative power at work here.

In my youth I loved fantasy worlds. At one point I remember wishing that I could wake up one day in the Hundred Acre Wood so I could live with Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh and their friends. I was too old when this movie came out to really believe in things like Halloweentown and Christmastown, but I think had the movie come out ten or fifteen years earlier I would have wished just as much to wake up one day in Halloweentown. It’s just such a fun, strange, interesting world, and it’s so well brought to life here in this movie.

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December 14, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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