Movie Review By Heather Clisby
It seemed the appropriate thing to do. Wait for the first rainy night of the season, light a fire and watch a laser disc of Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas." I had seen this instant classic only once before, on Halloween Day in 1993, opening day. It is my boyfriend's favorite movie and he consumes films not unlike our favorite cinematic diva, Monica Sullivan.
Anchored by two high-profile holidays - Halloween and Christmas - the film is the perfect Fall tradition, a full-scale masterpiece and the first ever full-length, stop-motion animated musical. Created and co-written by Tim Burton, directed by Henry Selick, the characters come to life through the musical brilliance of Danny Elfman.
Meet the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington, who has reached the top of his game in Halloween Land. His famous skeletal form is known everywhere for his mastery of the macabre and skill in the art of scaring and yet, he is bored. It's the same old thing every year; he needs a fresh spark of inspiration. During an introspective stroll, he stumbles upon a circle of trees that accidentally leads him to the discovery of Christmas Land. Jack has never seen anything like it before, he is instantly entranced.
Sung by Danny Elfman, Jack's glee expressed in the song, "What's this?" is pure joy. "There's people throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads . . . " The snow, the lights, the toys, the mistletoe and the all-around good cheer and lack of anything scary really lights Jack's soul on fire. Music instead of screams? This is the new thing he'd been wishing for. From then on, Jack is obsessed with Christmas - he must get to the bottom of it and master it.
Meanwhile, the ghoulish citizens of Halloween town don't get it. I mean, if no one is scared than what's the point? Sally, the rag doll creation of a mad scientist, is the only soul who senses disaster with the new program change. She also harbors a secret burn for Jack though he is too distracted to notice. With voice by Catherine O'Hara, Sally is the heart of the film, Jack is the passion.
Then there's Oogie, the slime of the film who is deliciously despicable. The best song by far is "Oogie Boogie's Song", sung by Ken Page. The Boogie Man, as we all know, is the green scary guy that's always under the bed and hiding in the closet, and he's got Santa Claus in his grasp. With a jazzy attitude, Oogie mocks St. Nick and threatens to add him to his Snake & Spider Stew. It's a perfectly nasty scene, especially for poor Santa, voice by Ed Ivory, who looks so helpless and cherubic throughout the ordeal.
Oogie is aided by the three finest trick-o-treaters in town, Lock, Shock and Barrel, a giggling trio with no apparent ethics or morals and openly driven by the spirit of hijinks. With voices by Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara and Paul Reubens, they are the kids down the street with too much free time and an appreciation for mischief.
Not enough can be said for the quality of this production. The story itself is endearing enough but the animation and music score marry so well, these characters have life and I certainly hope to see more of them. It's always inspiring to see 'scary' presented as a 'healthy', much in the same way as the Munsters and the Adams Family exhibited normal familial love. For fans of Tim Burton, this is the Imaginator at his finest.
© 1999 - Heather Clisby - Air Date: 11/17/99
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