The Nightmare Before Christmas

Brian’s Exploratory Christmas Endeavor 2016: 9/25

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It’s no secret that I’ve spent most of my life disapproving of this movie. I watched it a fair amount as a child, as my aunt gifted me a copy one year for the holidays. Then I grew out of it, left it in that great pile of films I once enjoyed but didn’t feel much need for any longer.

When I was in high school I shopped at Hot Topic, a lot, and most of what that entails. About the only thing true of most Hot Topic shoppers that was not true of me was that I didn’t give a damn about The Nightmare Before Christmas. Seemingly out of nowhere, thanks I’m entirely sure to that store, the movie had as strange resurgence in the 2000’s that has never gone away since. I found it profoundly irritating back then, not that the movie had changed, but that people had come to obsess over it. Unique and swirly backgrounds with a thin skeleton creature who falls in love with a stitched-together rag doll turned out to be exactly the sort of thing that soaked the underwear of sensitive and brooding young people the world over. How thoroughly irritating.

I’ve got a bad habit of judging people for not growing out of the things that I grow out of. I just don’t have the patience for it, and after years of grumbling I eventually talk myself out of it. It seems it took me until my late twenties to talk myself out of my ugly feelings about this film and the people who enjoy it. Mostly.

Directed by Henry Selick and produced (and associated entirely with) Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas has all the hallmarks of those two men’s works, and in 2016 it can feel very trope-y, as it is easy to forget that this was in fact a trend-setting movie, rather than one of the many things that would come to ape it in subsequent years. It’s about a skeleton named Jack who grows bored with his role as Chief Halloween Bro in Halloween Town, and a rag doll Frankenstine’s Montster sort of creature who spends her days trying to poison to death and escape the scientist who created her.

Jack stumbles into Christmas Town one mournful night and steals a bunch of their nice shit to bring back and show all of his Halloweeny friends. Then he winds up trying to be Santa Claus, and there’s this big, gross, bug-filled thing called Oogey Boogey…I don’t know. Look, it’s fine. That’s the point. It’s fine.

The voice actors aren’t big names in the business, and they do their jobs well enough, but not spectacularly. The music written by Danny Elfman because of course it is, and it sounds like every other Elfman score which is to say talented composed, catchy, and annoyingly dark and flourishy.

The stop motion is truly, beautifully impressive to behold, particularly in Blu-Ray, but that’s the best praise I can give for it. The aesthetic, though unique, doesn’t do much for me, and much like Aaahh! Real Monsters, is often too gross for comfort.

I don’t know if I’ll ever shake how much the fans of this film bother me. Their investment in the supposed romance of these corpsey characters is just too damn much. But the movie itself hasn’t done anything wrong, doesn’t deserve my ire. As a fan of animation, I must give it its due credit for being a creative joy to behold, if nothing that strikes me from a story, character, or musical angle. There are even some funny bits in there.

Although I don’t know if I can fully detach from this film the stigma I attach to its fans, I am content enough to watch it every now and again, and I do respect it for being so well executed. And hey, it’s shorter than the average movie, clocking in at only 70-odd minutes.

The Nightmare Before Christmas gets ★★★☆☆ for being a fine piece of animated visual wonder, but receives a whole cart full of riding crops for the people who dearly love it, with a final rating of:

GOOD

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