Sometimes, it feels like directors are stuffing us with so much realism we’re likely to choke on it. However, director Henry Selick’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which was recently re-released in 3-D after its initial run 13 years ago, proves that, sometimes, a little fantasy can be… well, fantastic.
“Nightmare” proves that, although realism may be appreciated in other films, here, it is the very brainchild of Tim Burton’s fantasy and Danny Elfman’s music that provides the moviegoer with a breath of welcome and whimsical fresh air. The 76-minute film is packed with enough goodies, including infectious songs (such as “This Is Halloween” and “What’s This?”, both of which you will surely be humming on your way out of the theater) that it would make even the most finicky of children and jaded of adults content with their Christmas stockings.
While the re-releasing of films may not seem like more than a clever – or not-so-clever – marketing
ploy, the film’s new 3-D effects prove that this version of the film is fresh and still original.
For all those who hid under a rock as children, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” tells the story of Jack Skellington (voiced by Chris Sarandon and singing voice by Danny Elfman), a literal skeleton who moves with spider-like flair and dancer-like grace. Discontent with his reign as leader of the gloomy Halloween Town, Jack wanders off with his faithful ghost-dog Zero, and accidentally gets transported to the cheery land of Christmas Town. Wanting to get in on the merriness that is Christmastime, Jack devises a plan to kidnap “Sandy Claws” and employs his grotesque Halloween Town citizens to help steal Christmas. Although Jack’s admirer Sally (voiced by Catherine O’Hara), a living rag doll, foresees his plan going awry, Jack goes ahead with his scheme to reinvent himself as the new and improved Santa Claus. Yet Jack’s sleigh ride is a bumpy one, and in the moral portion of the story, Jack learns to be content with himself and to have bigger ambitions to become even better than he is now while remaining true to himself. Yes, even Tim Burton has morals – come on, it’s a children’s film!
Still, as adults, we are able to glimpse “The Nightmare Before Christmas” from an entirely different perspective. As a child, one may have only seen the two-faced Mayor as nothing but a funny, bumbling and if nothing else, amusing fool. Now, viewing the film from a new, older perspective, the Mayor’s two faces make for a biting piece of comedy, sharp in its social wit and commentary. However, let’s not forget the simple pleasures of watching a film in which a callous scientist solves a difficult problem by removing his cranium and scratching his brain, and the town bell beckons citizens with the sound of a screeching cat. Even the film’s ultimate villain, Oogie Boogie (voiced by Ken Page), can only be so scary, as he sings with the voice of a smooth jazz singer and kind of resembles a walking pillow.
If you go into the movie anticipating the cheap thrills that come with some 3-D films, perhaps envisioning Jack’s skeletal hand lunging at you from the screen, then you are in for a letdown. However, if you’re dying – pun intended – to see a movie newly realized and rich in texture, with 3-D effects that enhance the pleasures of watching this cult classic film, then you are surely in for a sweet treat – and that’s no trick.