For one reason or another, The Nightmare Before Christmas was a movie that was never a part of my childhood, despite being six when it came out. Had I seen it as a child, I am sure it would have been a clear piece of my childhood I would always cherish. Now, almost twenty-five years later, I am glad to say that it still stands out as a classic (though as a Halloween or Christmas film, I am not so sure).
The story could only come from Tim Burton. The main resident of Halloween town, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) is the best when it comes to Halloween. Still, he is looking for something more. He stumbles upon doorways to other towns (all based off of Holidays) and discovers Christmas town, which is beyond anything he has ever seen (“There’s children throwing snowballs, instead of throwing heads.”)
He has his idea set in stone: Bring the idea of Christmas back to Halloween town and spread the joy. This is despite the warnings of Sally (Catherine O’ Hara), a zombie like creature with a soft spot for Jack.
The main star of the movie is composer Danny Elfman (who does some of his own vocal work, including Jack’s singing voice). He has, and always will be, associated with the work of Tim Burton (who, I realized with shock, did not actually direct this movie. The director was Henry Selick). His music, voice, and lyrics are all displayed with dignity, bravado, power, and undeniable charm.
The movie had one Oscar nomination, which was for Special Effects (it lost to Jurassic Park). The visuals are, as in every movie that has Tim Burton related to it (in any way shape or form), simply astounding. Not only that, but the way the visuals blend with the music is so magical it is (fittingly) creepy.
Parents, this movie does, of course, have some scary moments for very young kids, but I think it would be fine for anyone 1st grade and up.
The impact of The Nightmare before Christmas is still being felt (stores still sell its merchandise). It is one of the main movies I wish did not slip through my grasp as a child. Even the message of who you are and your identity is brilliant. The only fault I have is that, like all great movies, it is far too short.
In a nutshell, The Nightmare before Christmas is a classic.
Overall: Four and a Half Stars ****1/2