Directed by: Henry Selick
Premise: A 3-D re-release of the 1993 fantasy film about interconnected worlds that are themed to the holidays. Jack Skellington (voice of Chris Sarandon), a lonely skeleton who dreams of something more, leads the residents of Halloweentown to take over Christmas from Santa, with disastrous results.
What Works: The Nightmare Before Christmas is an extraordinary piece of fantasy. The film features some of the most impressive stop motion animation ever committed to film. The subtle features it adds to the characters, like facial expressions and body posture, creates performances that are as real as one given by a live human being on stage. The worlds that these characters inhabit have a similar reality to them and the backgrounds are staged with lots of action and detail that sells the illusion. Composer Danny Elfman and producer Tim Burton have a long history of collaboration, but this film sees some of their best work together. The picture is a musical and Elfman contributes songs that are fun, energetic numbers that complement the visuals and also give the film a strong emotional center. One the things most pleasing about The Nightmare Before Christmas is how funny it is. The film is a cross between a Halloween picture and a Christmas picture and it plays to both holidays. It has a dark, ghoulish sense of humor but there is a sweetness to the picture that keeps it, in the best sense of the word, family friendly. Like the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, this film plays to adults and to children without alienating either one of them.
What Doesn’t: The villain of the film, Oogie Boogie (voice of Ken Page) does not come into much conflict with Jack until the very end and is almost added as an afterthought. He works and is an enjoyable villain, but he’s underused.
Bottom Line: The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the great fantasy films, on par with Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, or the original Star Wars. The film distinguishes itself as a truly original work both in its aesthetic and narrative qualities. One stop motion animated Jack Skellington is worth a hundred computer-generated Jar Jar Binks.
Episode: #163 (October 28, 2007)