Tim Burtonís
The Nightmare Before Christmas
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Henry Selick
scr Caroline Thompson
voices Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Paul Reubens, Glenn Shadix, Ken Page, Edward Ivory, Susan McBride, Debi Durst, Greg Proops, Kerry Katz
release US 13.Oct.93,
UK 25.Nov.94
3D reissue UK 17.Nov.06,
US 19.Oct.07
93/UK Disney 1h16

What's this? Jack encounters something new

burton sarandon ohara

London Film Fest

The Nightmare Before Christmas There's a reason why his name's before the title: This film comes straight from the mind of Tim Burton. Apparently he came up with this concept many years ago while working as an animator at Disney, and now Disney is cashing in on his creative success, giving him virtual carte blanche.

The plot is a twist on the Dr Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Here Jack Skellington (voiced by Sarandon, sung by Elfman) leads his friends in Halloweentown to kidnap Santa Claus (Ivory), or Sandy Claws, as they think he's called. Jack's main assistant is Sally (O'Hara), who harbours a crush on him, as well as the mischievous trick-or-treaters, Lock, Shock and Barrel. Their goal is to give the world the best Christmas ever--but of course their idea of a good gift is the ultimate scare.

Everything about the film is first rate, from strong vocal performances to Elfman's delightful songs (even though they're not particularly memorable). The characters are vivid and often hilariously revolting, although the ghoulish Oogie Boogie (Page) seems a little out of synch with the rest of the film. Much more engaging are the wistful Sally, snivelling mad-genius Dr Finkelstein (Hickey), and the two-faced mayor (Shadix).

Visually, the film is absolutely gorgeous. Halloweentown is a gloomy mass of odd shapes, shadows and creepy characters, while Christmastown is the polar extreme: sunny, snowy and full of chubby cheeriness. The animation of the figures is impeccable--full of wild imaginative touches and touching drama. In the end, the plot is more a love story than an adventure about the abduction of Christmas. Which is rather charming.

In converting it to 3D, the technicians have pulled out all the stops, sharpening the images and pushing them right off the screen into our laps. The textures and colours really pop, and the characters even feel more tactile and sympathetic. Plus, Oogie Boogie's black light production number looks fantastic. Best of all is having the film back up on the big screen to enjoy with an audience. Don't miss it.

cert PG suspense] Oct.93/29.Oct.06 lff

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© 2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall