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   THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) 

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CAST
Chris Sarandon
Danny Elfman
Catherine O'Hara
William Hickey
Glenn Shadix
Paul Reubens
Ken Page
Ed Ivory
Susan McBride

DIRECTED BY
Henry Selick

PURCHASE


DVD



Soundtrack




Time: 76 mins.
Rating: PG
Genre: Animated Musical

Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects.


Being a relatively big fan of Tim Burton – I don't always love everything he does, but at least he uses his creativity to the fullest – I try to see all of the movies he's involved in. I remember loving NIGHTMARE when I saw it years ago in the theater and it being the holidays decided to watch it again. I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed by this second viewing. It is still a visual treat, but the story was a little flat and one-note. I guess once you know what's going to happen, in this case, it takes the fun out of the proceedings. The story is pretty good, but there's a real lack of depth for a PG rated movie. This isn't a film that will be enjoyed by very young children – especially those who still believe in Santa – so I wish that Burton and Selick gave it more bite and a more involved story. Of course, with the work necessary to create a film using this animation technique, I suppose less is more.

Which isn't to say that NIGHTMARE isn't a film one should check out. The story is incredibly original and the score and songs create just the right mood for this creepy, yet funny holiday tale. The movie begins with the yearly Halloween celebration in Halloweentown, led by master of ceremonies Jack Skellington. Everyone from the Mayor on down thinks this year's extravaganza was the best yet, but Jack is feeling restless and unsatisfied. He's bored with his duties and is looking for something new, a better purpose to his existence. While wandering through the forest, he discovers several trees with special doors on them – by their symbols it is clear they are portals to other holiday worlds. Jack is intrigued by the tree with a Christmas tree on it and before he knows what's happening he finds himself knee deep in snow staring at Christmas Town. Christmas Town is the exact opposite of his world. It's bright, colorful and extremely busy as the town's inhabitants are preparing for their yearly celebration.


"What's this? They're busy throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads."

The warmth and love Jack feels in this place overwhelm him, sending emotions and ideas never before felt whirling through his mind. He now knows how to make Halloween Town's celebration better. They're going to do Christmas. The other members of Halloween Town don't really understand the concept of peace on Earth and good will towards men. Jack tries to explain that the toys are presents meant to bring joy, not bite or scare the kids who receive them. Because they trust him, the townspeople agree to change their ways and accept their new tasks with excitement. Meanwhile, Jack is busy conducting experiments trying to figure out what their party is missing and discovers that it's Santa Claus. The only person displeased by Jack's plan to kidnap Santa and take his place delivering toys to kids around the world is Sally. She's had a vision and knows Jack will not be successful. She turns out to be right. Jack's Christmas is a disaster, but his failure enables him to understand and accept his role in the holiday scheme of things. To make things right with the world he rescues Santa and saves Christmas.

Though the plot is somewhat thin, the music and songs more than make up for the lack of story. Danny Elfman has become one of Hollywood's most prolific and exciting composers and he makes magic here. The songs are what make the film enjoyable, showcasing the personality and moods of the various characters from delighted to depressed, merry to mean-spirited. The look of the film, as dreamed up by Burton, is wonderfully evocative, the perfect idea of what Halloween Town and it's inhabitants would look like. Stop motion animation is a great alternative to the traditional hand drawn pieces, giving the film a unique and otherworldly feel. It's hard to believe they move all of those pieces by hand, frame by frame. The patience needed to perform that task is beyond me. If you're looking for a visual treat that will amaze your senses, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is a great way to spend some end-of-the-year viewing time. That is if you don't mind your holiday tales on the dark side.



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