“The Nightmare Before Christmas,” probably Tim Burton’s most well-known creation, though actually directed by Henry Selick (“James and the Giant Peach”), has not yet lost its grip over pop culture, despite being almost 15 years old. Jack Skellington’s face still appears on the T-shirts and backpack patches of emo kids all over, and, thanks to what is becoming an annual Halloween tradition for Walt Disney, his ghoulish face still appears in theaters. And what makes a novelty re-release even better? Why, exceedingly dorky 3-D glasses, of course! Truly, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is even better in 3-D.
“Nightmare,” the first feature-length stop-motion animation film, remains the movie that we all loved when we were still young enough to see animated flicks without feeling awkward, and which we will never outgrow. With its imaginative, Oscar-nominated art direction as well as its wonderful musical score by Danny Elfman, who also does the vocals for the singing Jack Skellington, “Nightmare” exists as the sort of film that no one has even attempted to top, and that is what makes its re-release a grand event. Disney has done nothing to reinvent the masterpiece — they just brought it back to us and added 3-D glasses. Whether you’ve worn out your DVD at home or you’ve never actually seen the cult classic, you’ve almost certainly never had a theater-going experience like this.
Admittedly, nothing good has ever come from adding 3-D glasses before (Did anybody see “Spy Kids 3-D” — even children?), but, because the animation of “Nightmare” is already so obscure, the novelty addition somehow works exceedingly well. Rather than causing objects to appear to leap out of the screen and into your lap — though this does happen to some degree — the 3-D element instead adds remarkable depth to the film, making it appear more like some sort of absurd stage-production performed by monstrous giants, where the audience is what jumps around instead of the camera. The 3-D effects are also especially commendable during the most memorable moments of the film — the musical numbers. One almost feels actively involved in “Jack’s Lament” near the beginning of the movie and in Oogie Boogie’s sardonic dances later on. These bits alone will justify Marcus Theater’s specially-hiked price of $10.50 for a movie that’s less than an hour-and-a-half long. But hey, it’s certainly a better alternative than a totally boring haunted house for the same price.
So, if you’re tired of Madison’s increasingly docile Halloweens or just need something psychedelic to do when you’re pumped full of hallucinogens, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” awaits, along with a pair of crazily stylish specs.
4.5 stars out of 5