Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Movie #479: The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stop-motion animated movie directed by Henry Selick, but from the mind of Tim Burton, starring Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara, Glen Shadix, Ken Page, Ed Ivory, Paul Reubens, and William Hickey.

The opening narration informs us that every holiday is the product of special holiday realms, and then dumps us into Halloween-town, which has a two-faced Mayor (Shadix) but really answers to its most prominent citizen, Jack Skellington (Sarandon, sung by Elfman). Jack is renowned as the creative force behind Halloween, but he's bored, and goes wandering until he finds the magic grove that leads to other holidays. He falls into Christmas-town, and feels inspired again - but he wants to understand the nature of Christmas. He winds up, instead, stealing it, sending three little trick-or-treaters (Lock, Shock, and Barrel, voiced by Reubens, O'Hara, and Elfman, respectively) to kidnap "Sandy Claws" (Ivory) so that the Halloween-ers can take over Xmas.

In the midst of all this is the kinda-sorta subplot of Sally (O'hara's main role), the ragdoll creature made by Dr. Finklestein (Hickey), who is in love with Jack but also trying to escape her creator. She is, as Santa notes, the only one that makes sense around here.

So, this movie has a following, and there's a lot I like about it. I like the characters, I like the music, and I love the look - it's very Burton, but it's more colorful than a lot of his stuff. But let's be real honest: This movie is thin. The plot is weak, the characters are fun and clever, but the world isn't fleshed out. I'm not even talking about the fact that we're apparently in world that treats Santa as a real, common-knowledge fact and what the hell that implies about the shenanigans that the Halloween-folk pull on their holiday. Just the dialog alone is weak, basic and boring, and the lyrics are simple at best and flat-out dumb at worst.

And then there's Oogie Boogie (Page), who's nominally the villain, but he literally has no reason to be in this movie except to give Jack a reason to rescue Santa (and Sally) in the third act. He's planning Santa? "Take the whole thing over" as his minions say? Gamble with Santa's life? It's not at all clear.

I have to assume that this movie had a much more first draft that wasn't filmed because it was expensive and time-consuming.

My Grade: C
Rewatch Value: Medium-high (look, I said it wasn't great, but it's still watchable)

Next up: A Nightmare on Elm Street