Movie Review: "The Nightmare Before Christmas"
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) is tired in his role as king of Halloween Town. Halloween Town is full of monsters, and evil creatures, and Jack Skellington is the king of them all. He and the citizens of his town plan for Halloween all year, and after it finally arrives, they begin planning for the next one. It has gone on like this for as long as Jack Skellington can remember, and he is tired of it. He longs for something new and different, and he longs to find his role in whatever that may be.
One day, Jack Skellington stumbles upon a strange place in the woods. That place transports him to a town called Christmas Town. This town is completely new to Jack Skellington. Among other things, it is filled with colorful lights and something called snow, and its king is a big man in a red suit who brings presents to children. Jack Skellington is amazed by this town, and wants to bring some of its ideas back to his own. However, a citizen of Halloween Town — named Sally (Catherine O’Hara) — has reason to believe that Jack’s recent choices will bring terrible consequences.
The Pros & Cons
Christmas vs. Halloween (+10pts)
The Songs (+6pts)
Jack Skellington (+5pts)
The Stakes (-2pts)
Pro: Christmas vs. Halloween (+10pts)
A lot of the fun in this movie came from the comparison between Christmas and Halloween, as it shows a view of Christmas through the lens of someone who has only ever known horror. Christmas is supposed to be about joy and giving, while Halloween is about monsters and fear. It was fun to see what someone like Jack Skellington would think of Christmas. It was also fun to see Jack’s almost innocent yet definitely horrible versions of Christmas norms — like presents — which comedically showed his colossal misunderstanding of the holiday. It goes without saying that these two holidays are very different from one another. That being said, I thought this movie did a really good job of comparing the two in a unique and entertaining way.
Con: Sally (-4pts)
This character was surrounded by a cloud of plot issues. To start, her trying to poison the scientist was a storyline that made no sense, as the scientist clearly did not trust her. Then there was the forced potential romance between Sally and Jack, which was entirely unjustified. Then there were the visions, which made no sense as to why she got them — other than the obvious reason of being a plot device to move the story forward, and to force Jack and Sally together. I liked the movie, and Sally was far from the main focus of the story, but there were just too many issues that all seemed to tie back to her. These issues obviously varied in severity, with things like her attempted poisoning of the scientist being far less severe than the forced potential romance of her and Jack, but the fact is that there were too many issues surrounding this character to ignore.
Pro: The Songs (+6pts)
The songs in this movie were both catchy and fun. My favorite two have to be "What's This?" and "Oogie Boogie's Song", but really all of the movie's songs were strong. They made it really easy to dive into this world, while learning different things about it. They also made it really easy to connect with these characters, while learning about their mindsets and how they felt about certain things. These songs were fun, memorable, and they effectively provided exposition in an entertaining way. You go into a kid's movie like this one expecting it to be a musical, and those only works if the songs are strong. Fortunately for this one, the songs in this movie were a lot of fun, and a few will be stuck in your head long after the movie has ended.
Con: Travel (-2pts)
Throughout the course of this story, the filmmakers needed Jack Skellington to travel quite a bit. They needed him to go from Halloween Town to Christmas Town, from Christmas Town back to Halloween Town, and even to and from the real-world. However, it seemed like the filmmakers had no idea how travel between these places should work within this story. Each time Jack Skellington travels from one place or another, the rules regarding how he does so seem to change. It showed that the filmmakers did not think this through properly, and showed were instead just winging it as they went. This is something that I do not think kids will notice at all — and I mean that is really who this movie is for, right? However, adults will most likely pick up on the inconsistency, and — while it does not really hurt the movie much — I thought it was worth mentioning.
Pro: Jack Skellington (+5pts)
This character worked because he was relatable, which is weird to say when considering he is a skeleton and is king of a town full of monsters. He was relatable because he was tired of the same old thing, and was searching for something new, which is something that many of us can connect with on some level. The character was also able to switch back and forth between being a relatable and compassionate character that the audience could sympathize with, and also being a powerful and intimidating figure — justifying to the audience that he is deserving of his status in Halloween Town. The filmmakers did a great job of making him a character that was able to wear both "faces" very well, which went a long way in making this story work as well as it did. The character was nice when the audience needed a character to follow, but he was also able to be menacing when the story needed that from him. The result was an interesting protagonist that I enjoyed following throughout this story.
Con: The Stakes (-2pts)
One thing that I did not understand about this movie were the stakes in the story’s climax. Every story should have a suspenseful climax in one way or another. For many stories, the risk of death is a pretty easy way to add suspense, but Jack Skellington is already dead, so that obviously would not work here. The filmmakers’ way around that seemed meaningless and did nothing to raise the stakes. Jack Skellington obviously could not die, so the filmmakers needed something to replace that. They could have gone with the consequences of potential failure, or could have written any potential risk that they wanted (this is a wildly unrealistic kids movie after all). Instead, they went with something that made no sense, was not supported by anything that came before, did not add any suspense to the climax, and therefore made for an anti-climactic ending.
Grade: B+ (88pts)
The Nightmare Before Christmas was a pretty unique movie that had a lot going for it. Did it have some problems? Sure. There was the wildly inconsistent and unexplained method of traveling between towns, there was the somewhat anti-climactic ending that seemed to have no stakes whatsoever, and then there was Sally — who was a character that was surrounded by plot issues, all in order to force a potential romance between two characters who should not have had one. Fortunately, none of these issues had a major impact on my enjoyment of the movie.
The movie had a unique, relatable, and interesting main character, and it had plenty of catchy and entertaining songs scattered throughout. It also had the really unique opportunity of comparing Halloween and Christmas in a way that few other movies could. This comparison provided a ton of entertaining moments that I really enjoyed. It was a unique story, with plenty of entertaining moments, songs, and characters. Its issues were hard to miss, but it was a fun movie nonetheless, and I recommend watching it if you have not seen it before.