Rated: PG for some scary images.
Recommended for: ages 3 and up
Run Time: 76 minutes
Quick Take: From Halloween to Christmas (and, really, any other time of year), no family flick does a better job of sending purely delightful shivers up your spine.
Kids love to be scared -- to a point -- and few filmmakers are as skilled as Tim Burton at playing up the whimsical, delightful side of "scary" stories.
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, which director and stop-motion specialist Henry Selick adapted from Burton's original poem and drawings, is endlessly delightful, even as it deals in icky bugs and severed limbs. If Halloween is a major holiday in your house, this will become a family classic.
Despite the trouble he causes, Jack Skellington isn't actually a villain (that would be the creepy Oogie Boogie Man, whose scariness is negated by the fact that he mostly performs Vegas-themed song-and-dance numbers).
Jack simply has a case of the blahs -- and no sense of boundaries. When he discovers Christmas Town, he has no qualms about taking over, only to learn that some of us are more skilled at certain tasks than others.
That's a nice little lesson for the bossy kid in all of us, yet the true joys of Nightmare are visual.
Halloween Town is a mournfully gorgeous place -- that drooping curlicue of a cliff Jack likes to visit has become the picture's iconic image. The residents, meanwhile, are amusingly gruesome, from the singing vampires -- they make for the world's gloomiest barbershop quartet -- to Jack's love interest, Sally, who keeps having to sew her arms and legs back on.
Kids Will Like:
The central idea that each holiday has its own town. Don't be surprised if they ask you to take them to Halloween Town for your next vacation. Zero, Jack's dog, will also charm younger viewers -- even if he is a ghost.
Parents Will Like:
The way horror archetypes have been envisioned for this family-friendly flick. Look carefully in the corners of Halloween Town and you'll catch glimpses of everyone from the Wolf Man to Igor to -- my personal favorite -- the creature from the Black Lagoon.