Considering that Christmas is coming up, I figure I should probably review a speculative fiction Christmas movie. Something that I realized the other day that a lot of Christmas stories have nothing to do with Christmas. I mean, if you think about It’s a Wonderful Life, it really is about a guy who realizes that everyone has a destiny. The story just happens to take place on Christmas, just like Die Hard would be the same movie if it didn’t take place on Christmas.
On the surface, it seems like A Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas movie. Heck it has Christmas in the title. I mean, you could probably do the story of A Christmas Carol without Christmas, but what it is about is how the rich should help the poor. It just so happens that Christmas is involved.
Even though A Nightmare Before Christmas has Christmas in the title, the story is really one that is a good lesson. This is strange, because the visuals of the story can easily distract you from what it has to say.
But first, let’s talk about the film. It opens in Halloween town, some place where there is a mix of the macabre with the comic. I’m not really certain how this works, but apparently, everyone looks like it is Halloween every day, and yet it is only Halloween once a year. Yeah, I’m not really certain how it works either.
Anyway, the main character Jack Skellington is a skeleton who essentially leads this big celebration that they have every year. The problem is, he’s tiring of the repetition of it, and wants something new. He then wanders into this place where there are trees that lead to other holiday themed towns. There is one for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Jack stumbles into Christmas town, and he immediately falls in love with it. Instead of the celebration of all things cold, dark, and dead (which is what Halloween is) everything is merry and bright. He sings a song that really expresses his feelings that is incredible, honestly. Yeah, unlike Corpse Bride, the songs of A Nightmare Before Christmas are generally memorable.
Jack then goes back to Halloween town and decides that they will celebrate Christmas. In order to do that, he decides to take over Santa Claus’ job. It goes about as well as expected.
This is what I like about this film, Jack tries to be something that he’s not, and it fails. This is really what I feel what this film is about, the idea that we are made to do something, and we should do it. This is very contrary to most films that are designed for children, as they usually show a main character doing something they shouldn’t be doing and exceeding all expectation (think Turbo, Babe, or Ratatouille).
What I really see in A Nightmare Before Christmas is a solid Christmas message, where we often feel a sense of self-reflection over events of the year. Some people feel the “Christmas blues” because they don’t feel like they are achieving their true destiny. The issue is that they could be doing their destiny, and not even know it. Sometimes it isn’t necessary to change everything, just some things.
In the end, this is what Jack Skellington does, as he realizes that he is missing love in his life. Eventually, he falls for Suzy, who is a patchwork Frankenstein’s monster of a character that is one of the many animated spectacles in this film.
Yes, this film is full of animation in clay that looks really great, even after 20 years. However, don’t let the visuals distract from what is a pretty decent story.