A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 289 – The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas – December 14th, 2010

My family has always had some Christmas season movie staples. Usually my mother and I will get together and bake cookies on a few different days prior to Christmas itself and while cookies are baking or we’re waiting for dough to chill or set we’ll make ourselves tea, put in one of our favorites and settle in to enjoy it. Over the past few years I’ve collected my family’s favorites on DVD wherever possible and VHS where impossible and by now we’ve got a small pile of Christmas movies. When we tallied them up for this project we realized we have twelve Christmas movies! So, tonight is our partridge in a pear tree, as it were. The beginning of our Twelve Movies of Christmas.

I do have to admit, this is not on my top ten movie list. It’s not one of the classics my family watched for years and while I do enjoy it, I’m not quite as taken with it as many other people seem to be. I’m not sure what it is about it that doesn’t quite click for me. Halloween was never my favorite holiday, though I’m growing fonder of it with age. Then again, my best Halloween costume ever was a Christmas tree (I was seven when I came up with that idea and it was an awesome costume), so really, it’s not the concept that’s the issue. Maybe it’s that it’s a full blown musical and the style of that just doesn’t work for me. I’m not sure. It’s probably just a whole bunch of little things, which is a pity, because it’s obviously a fantastic movie and I just can’t get as into it as I’d like.

I do enjoy the world in which the movie is set. This is a world where each major holiday has its own land (well, each major holiday from a very specific viewpoint – I didn’t see a Passover land, or Diwali door). In a strange forest are special trees with doors shaped like a symbol for the land that lies within. In one is Halloween land, where Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, rules. And every year he and his people (all demons and monsters and trick-or-treaters) prepare to make sure that Halloween in the outside world is as scary and creepy and tricky as possible. Meanwhile, in Christmas land the same is going on for Santa and his elves, but, you know, for Christmas. It’s sort of taking the idea of Santa’s workshop and the North Pole and applying it to every holiday. And Jack’s feeling down. Halloween just isn’t cutting it anymore. So he goes for a walk and discovers Christmas and decides that’s just what he needs! A change of pace, some presents and snow, a new holiday to celebrate in Halloween land.

Since this is based on a concept from Tim Burton you can likely guess where that all goes. If you haven’t seen this, I’ll give you some hints: Santa gets kidnapped and threatened by the Boogie Man, Christmas carols are played in minor keys, and Jack heads off to deliver toys like shrunken heads and hats made out of bats to small children. It is, in short, a creepy mess of a Christmas. And really? I love the idea. Through the whole thing there’s a woman named Sally, who lives in Halloween land, who knows that this is all a horrible idea, and she’s right! It is a horrible idea! But it makes for a great movie plot.

The whole movie is done in stop motion animation, and I’ve got to say it’s gorgeous. As is to be expected, the level of detail is simply stunning, and it really does suit the whole mood of the movie well. I love the color palette used for the Halloween stuff and how striking the bright red of Jack’s Santa suit is against it. I love a lot of the characters and how they’re realized. The three trick-or-treaters are great, with their masks covering faces that look like their masks. Oogie Boogie is fantastic and sinister and glow-in-the-dark. The visuals are all great and the story is fun. I guess it really must be the music.

Now, I don’t have anything at all against Danny Elfman. I like his work and he did a nice job here. I think it’s more the quantity of sung material. I just want a little bit more in the way of dialogue. The singing loses me a lot. I found myself totally losing interest during some of the songs and I think I’d have preferred to have the music in the background while some lines were spoken, rather than the constant singing. It doesn’t seem to be so much a musical as an opera at times. I kept expecting more dialogue tonight only to get a line here or there and then more singing. Oh well.

Overall, as I said, I like the concept and much of the execution. It just doesn’t quite hit me the way it hits others, which makes me a little sad because I’d love to love it. I just can’t seem to bring myself to do so, be it the quantity of music or something else intangible and impossible for me to identify. So I’ll just go on liking it and leave the loving it to others.

December 15, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

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