Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

I like several of Danny Elfman's movie soundtracks, and I quite enjoyed what little I've heard of "Oingo Boingo", the band he headed in the 80s and 90s.  Which is why it comes as a surprise to me that the songs in this are the weakest part of the film.  They're bland, often very similar in their sound, and just all round underwhelming.

And bad songs are a significant problem when 50% of your movie is the characters singing.

Perhaps if the script was stronger the lack of interesting songs wouldn't stand out so much, but it's nothing to shout about, especially the pacing: the film takes a bit too long to get to its conflict, and the resolution then comes with unseemly haste.

This is a shame, because the basic premise isn't bad.  Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, is feeling some ennui about the same-ness of every year's holiday celebration.  But then, while on a walk, he stumbles into Christmas Town by accident. He sees this new and exciting place (and its holiday) as his opportunity to do something different, and resolves to take over Christmas.  He enlists the help of his creepy, kooky subjects, but of course neither he nor they really understand what the holiday is about, so things go more than a little awry.  Especially when wicked bogeyman Oogie Boogie gets involved.  (Oogie, by the by, gets the only song I thought had any real verve to it)

That outline sounds like a movie that should be fun.  More fun than it actually is, certainly.  But as noted above, the pacing isn't good, and that really hurts it.

So does the movie have any bright spots?  Sure.  It looks fantastic, with detailed stop motion animation being used to great effect, and lots of cool character and set design to be seen.  Visually, it's quite a treat.  It's a shame the aural and narrative elements of the film don't measure up.

Worth checking out if you're an animation buff, or a mad fan of the Halloween holiday, but otherwise, it's skippable.

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