tek's rating:

The Nightmare Before Christmas (PG)
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Caution: spoilers!

This is something that I think many people assume was directed by Tim Burton, but in fact he just conceived and produced it. It was directed by Henry Selick, who has also directed or otherwise worked on some other good movies, such as Coraline. (And if you love this movie, you pretty much have to like that one, too.) There's awesome music composed by Danny Elfman, who also provides a few voices (including the main character's singing). The amazing cast also includes Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, et al. The movie has great characters, great animation, and a great story.... It's undoubtedly the best stop-motion film I've ever seen.

It's about this skeleton named Jack Skellington, aka the Pumpkin King, who is from Halloweentown. All sorts of weird things live there, and they go out into the world once a year, on Halloween, to spread fear. They enjoy this greatly, and Jack is the best at it. However, lately he just isn't feeling it, and wants to find something new. Then he and his red-nosed ghost dog, Zero, are out for a walk in the forest, and discover there are trees which serve as gateways to every holiday. He stumbles into Christmastown, and loves it. He returns home and tries to explain it to everyone, but they don't understand it, since their perceptions of everything in life are based entirely around Halloween. Jack himself doesn't truly understand it, but he desperately wants to. So he foolishly sends three miscreant trick-or-treaters (Lock, Shock, and Barrel) to kidnap Santa Claus so that he and his friends can take over Christmas for the year, Jack dressed as Santa, delivering presents to all the children of the world. There are all sorts of problems with this, of course. One is that Lock, Shock, and Barrel work for Oogie Boogie, aka the Boogieman, who is just this terrible troublemaker completely at odds with Jack. Why Jack trusted Oogie's proteges to handle this task and heed his warning not to involve Oogie is a bit perplexing, but hey... it serves the story. Of course they turn Santa over to their master after kidnapping him.

There's all kinds of other stuff going on, too. There's a mad scientist named Dr. Finklestein, who created a living, life-size rag doll named Sally, who's secretly in love with Jack. She has a vision of his attempt to handle Christmas going horribly awry, but he pays no heed to her warnings. Meanwhile, the citizens of Halloweentown make some terrible presents for Jack to deliver on Christmas Eve, which scare all the children he gives them to. So the human authorities end up shooting down Jack's sleigh. In spite of things going so horribly awry, the experience reignites his passion for Halloween, and looks forward to next year. Meanwhile, he returns to Halloweentown and discovers Oogie torturing Santa Claus, as well as Sally, who had tried to rescue him, so Jack and Oogie have a confrontation. Of course Christmas is ultimately saved, and there's a happy ending for Jack and Sally (soulmates if ever I've seen them).

Well, I suppose I've said too much, but I do feel like I've left out plenty of fun details. You can, of course, watch the movie at either Halloween or Christmas (or any time of year), but while it seems more Halloweenish, it's really mostly a Christmas movie. Just cooler and darker than most, while just as emotionally moving as any Christmas movie, without being too sappy.

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