It’s nearing the end of October…you know what that means? Endless posts about The Nightmare Before Christmas. You know, the Tim Burton film that has literally nothing to do with Tim Burton except his name on the title? (Ok he was a co producer and it says it is based on his characters, but still!)
Well I think it is high time we examine this “masterpiece” because I’m not going to lie, I never really got into it as a kid. In fact, I found the film pretty boring…and frustrating!
I mean it had some catchy songs and a great voice cast and I don’t mind stop motion animation, but there was not one likable character in the entire film…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let us start at the beginning…
This movie revolves around our protagonist Jack Skellington, The Pumpkin King and ruler of Halloween Town. In this world the residence (all ghost and ghouls and everything in between) spend the entire year preparing for Halloween.
And here is my first problem, if everyone in the town prepares and takes part in this big musical number, who are they preforming to? As far as we see nobody comes in or out of the town except through ‘The Doors’ (more on that later). If you have ever been married you know how much preparation goes into making a wedding a memorable event, but it’s not really for you, it’s for the friends and family you invite. Same if you have ever put on a theater production, all the rehearsals and practicing is for those who come to see it, not you or the cast.
So who is watching the show?
Now if you say they are all doing it just for themselves for their fellow creatures to watch, then I put this idea forward…If we assume they have been doing this since Halloween became a mainstream holiday (not an observance of religious custom), then that means they have been at this for at least a hundred years. After how many times can you see someone be set on fire, pop off various body parts or say “boo” before you think the bit’s gone stale? Is everyone in town got the attention span of a three year old? They give out some awards but again, not really worth the big song and dance for.
Anyway, Jack must be thinking the same thing as he has become bored and displaced with how it goes and he needs something to invigorate him.
He goes for a walk, presumably further than he has ever traveled and discovers a circle of trees with various icons carved into them as doors. The one that captures Jack’s attention is of course the colourful door shaped like a Christmas tree, and no sooner has he opened it he falls through and finds himself in Christmas Town.
Through a classic musical number called “What’s This?” Jack tries to make sense of it all. When he gets back he wishes to show how excited he is about this Christmas thing to the town…but they don’t get it. Sensing he is loosing the crowd he then describes Santa not as he saw him, but how the residences of Halloween Town would like to see him- a dark creature that enters children’s homes. He even admits to himself they don’t get it but at least they are excited.
Jack starts become obsessed to the point where he decides HE should be in charge of the holiday and he then convinces the town that Christmas is the way to go and they should make presents for all the boys and girls of the world.
Then they kidnap Santa Clause.
This was the part of the film that really got my goat. Not only do they forcibly remove Santa from his home and place of work, but then they ignore his protests that he doesn’t want a vacation and throw him back in the sack. You know who else does that kind of thing? Rapists and Fundamentalists. Forcing themselves and their views on other people despite protests and doing things against their will.
Jack is metaphorically raping Christmas!
There is also a whole other rant I could go on regarding the time it took for the demon kids to kidnap Santa, how quick it was that the Halloween residents were able to make the toys, where did Jack get the list from with all the boys and girls names on it, etc…but those are nitpicks.
So all the monsters get to work creating gifts which they would like to receive and honestly there is nothing wrong with that. They don’t understand that human children wouldn’t like a shrunken head, or a giant snake. They live in a world where all that is completely normal and “fun”. In The Netherlands it is completely normal to congratulate an entire family on someone’s birthday. In the UK, tipping your hat at a magpie stops bad luck, and in the US they get a weather forecast from a groundhog. The point is “normal” is a relative term.
Plus as we have established, the residents are not very bright and follow the orders of their king, whereas Jack knows exactly what he is doing, he just doesn’t care. In fact he justifies it by thinking he can do it better.
So this all goes down as well as you would think, so much so the military is scrambled to take out Jack and luckily they blow him out of the sky. Unfortunately though, being an undead skeleton he does not die and instead comes to the realization that being ruler of his little town and keeping to what you know is not a bad idea.
So he goes back to town, rescues Santa from the prison he left him in, and St Nick cleans up the mess left by Jack. Jack gets the girl and Santa makes it snow over Halloween town. The End.
Now fans of the show will notice I left out the Sally romantic subplot and Boogie’s involvement…manly because they go absolutely nowhere and the movie could remove them completely and it would not change the story.
So here is the problem with this story…it has no moral!
There are no consequences for anyone! Jack does exactly what he wanted the entire movie. He is filled with inspiration for next Halloween. He gets the girl!
Is the moral to try new things? Hopefully not because then it also would mean try new things at everyone’s expense no matter what?
Is the moral to be happy where you are and stick to the status quo? Well it can’t be that either as he was unhappy before and only got his mojo back after throwing it all away?
Is it do whatever the hell you feel like and regardless what happens providing you have skill and privilege and power you will never face consequences for your actions? That seems the closest so far!
Guys and girls, the movie is bad. When you break it down to its basic components it’s about a guy who has a midlife crisis, tries to put a man out of business by forcibly removing him from his job, getting pushback from the community, and decides he is happy where he is. Not exactly a Shakespearean masterpiece…so why does everyone love it? Well part of it has to do with Nostalgia, part of it has to do with a very catchy score from Danny Elfman, another part to do with the stop motion which still holds up today, and part of it is to have a movie that combines two major holidays which are so close together. If you combine the parts you get this Frankenstein’s Monster of a movie which was a box office success and is still has a large impact of reruns, merchandise, and parties. And it’s not going away anytime soon.
If you have never seen it before, feel free to give it a watch but go in with your eyes open. If you love the movie, this review is not going to change your opinion, and if you hated the movie, maybe this put into words why.
But what do you think of A Nightmare Before Christmas and which holiday do you prefer: Christmas or Halloween? Let us know in the comments below.