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The UnPopular Opinion: The Nightmare Before Christmas

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Stop-motion animation films are a wonderful sight to behold when done correctly. The stunning work from Aardman and LAIKA has time and again proven to be equal if not superior to the computer-generated works that rake in the big bucks at the box office. While critically acclaimed, stop-motion has not quite become the mainstream powerhouse that traditional and CGI animation has become. There is one lone exception: THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Blending the twisted art of Tim Burton with the brilliant direction of Henry Selick, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is part Halloween movie and part Christmas musical. Disney has since capitalized on two holidays with one product and ridden the angst of the teens who grew up with the movie and passed their love down to their children. There is one problem: THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS fucking sucks.

I am dumbdounded by the near universal acclaim for this boring and emotionally devoid film that looks and feels like someone opened the top of Tim Burton's head and scooped out the disturrbing memories of his childhood holidays. Like most of Burton's films, this is a movie that has a unique approach to telling a familiar story (it is basically HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS but creepy) and hides a laundry list of failures beneath a glossy sheen that appeals to high school stage crews, troubled Goth kids, and wannabe outcasts. But, like most of those kids you knew in school, it is all a front for an incredibly generic core. All of this is a damn shame because the animation is some of the best stop-motion ever put to the silver screen.

The Nightmare Before Christmas, The UnPopular Opinion, horror, Animation, Christmas, Chris Sarandon, Tim Burton, Henry Selick

To prove a point, look at all of the animated films from both Selick and Burton sicne THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Selick helmed the excellent adaptation of Roald Dahl's JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH (produced and visually influenced by Burton, but based on solid source material) and the scary CORALINE. Burton helmed two stop-motion films on his own: the banal CORPSE BRIDE and the overrated FRANKENWEENIE. Where Selick stretched his talents in different ways, all of Burton's films look and feel the same. There is a pervading sense of creepiness that never comes into balance with the emotional resonance of the story. That could be because none of Burton's animated films have any genuine heart. Instead, they coast by on charater and set design and we are all left with the results set to Danny Elfman's music.

As much as I have loved Elfman's work on BEETLEJUICE and BATMAN, the musical numbers that fill THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS are ear-splitting and tedious. In the years since it was originally released, Elfman's songs have been covered by countless musicians and even resulted in a tribute album. But, most of that is driven by nostalgia rather than the quality of the music. From "This is Halloween" to "What's This?" and the vaguely racist "Oogie Boogie Song", this movie is a nightmare version of a traditional Disney animated classic. But, where those songs had a theatrical flair that made them sound epic, Burton and Elfman's songs never become more than forgettable odes to Halloween hidden in a Christmas mentality.

The biggest problem with THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is the same thing that caused both the live action and recent Illumination remake of HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS to fail. Both of those films looked good but there was nothing else good about them. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is so crammed with characters and Burton-esque designs, I kept hoping that the movie would do something substantial. Instead, most of the movie is sight gags and creepy variations of Christmas repeated ad nauseum. The movie is also stuck in between being a family film or an adult movie. Tim Burton clearly wanted to make this a tale for all ages, but it is just too scary for small childen and too boring for adults. This is the kind of movie that you rewatch and find so many characters and moments you forgot about because everyting in this movie is so damn forgettable.

With a story like THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, you need to pick a lane in order to captivate a viewer. The decision to make this a musical ends up screwing the entire production because it highlights the fatal flaw that this movie does not equal the sum of it's parts. There was a lot of potential here, but we never get to invest in any of the characters since we never get to really know any of them. The story is nearly impossible to follow because every scene that would be perfect for developing our protagonists and villains is instead forced to be told through highly conventional and superficial songs that don't lend any depth whatsoever.

The Nightmare Before Christmas, The UnPopular Opinion, horror, Animation, Christmas, Chris Sarandon, Tim Burton, Henry Selick

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS rightfully was nominated for Best Visual Effects at the Oscars but nothing else. Hardcore fans likely considered that a travesty, but this film has never earned the right to be more than a cult favorite. This movie's unabashed popularity will never cease to amaze me and makes me wonder how this movie does so damn well and movies like PARANORMAN and KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS barely register at the box office. It goes to show that even a mediocre musical can be a hit when you strike the right chord with the right niche audiences. But, as far as Halloween and especially Christmas films go, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS deserves no spot in your holiday rotation.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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