With so many different entertainment options out there for your children, we at PopcornBiz thought we'd take a moment each week to dissect one piece of family entertainment strictly from a parent's perspective, so that you know what parts are appropriate for your loved ones, and which are not. This week's COVER YOUR EYES subject: " The Nightmare Before Christmas".
Ah, Halloween. The perfect time to round up the children and cue up a movie that's scary in theory, but not so scary that you have to deal with children who refuse to go to bed at night because they think Michael Myers is coming to strangle them with piano wire. Man, kids are such wimps. Anyway, I have a 5-year-old who's been asking all week for me to buy "Spooky Buddies," but I'll be a monkey's uncle before I plunk down $26 to watch a bunch of talking dogs run around wearing Halloween masks. That's a lame effort. I'd much rather subject my kid to "The Nightmare Before Christmas," the gorgeous stop-motion animation cult hit that has become a perennial holiday favorite for both Christmas AND Halloween. Oh, that Tim Burton. Such a shrewd businessman. Anyway, is director Henry Selick's masterpiece appropriate to show your little ones after they come home with a big bag of Butterfingers? Let's consider a few factors.
The "Will Parents Be Able To Tolerate It?" Factor: It depends on whether or not you can tolerate the glorious oddness of the animation (I can), and whether or not you can tolerate all the Danny Elfman-scored musical numbers (I can, but just barely). No one told me this movie was a musical before I saw it. I really wish they had. All musicals should have a giant red label warning MUSICAL, so that musical-haters like me can avoid them. It would have helped me skip the Johnny Depp version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
The Dead Parent Factor: No parents die during the movie. However, Dr. Finklestein does create a "mommy" for Sally the rag doll, using a piece of his own brain. In many ways, that's actually worse than a dead parent turning up.
The Violence Factor: There isn't any blood in "The Nightmare Before Christmas," per se. But the movie is otherwise a virtual festival of the macabre: skulls, skeletal reindeer, the nasty bag demon that is Oogie Boogie, shrunken heads, ghost dogs, a kidnapped Santa Claus, snakes, monsters, and more. There's no "normal" in Selick's world. Showing your kid "The Nightmare Before Christmas" means subjecting them to a relentlessly weird and often grotesque spectacle. And the desaturated color palette makes the film dark from start to finish, even in its lighter moments.
The Language Factor: None.
The "I'm Worried Showing My Kid This Movie Will Turn Them Goth" Factor: High. I can't argue with you on that one. No one wants their kid to morph into Helena Bonham Carter. One minute, your kid is a sweet little girl wearing flower dresses, the next she's painting her fingernails black and wearing funeral veils to high school. So, so lame.
The Sexy Sex Sex Factor: Very chaste. Jack and Sally fall in love, but you never see them have skeleton-on-rag-doll relations. That would be going too far.
The Scare Factor: There are plenty of disturbing images in "Nightmare" that could potentially stay with your kid for a long time, even if they claim they aren't scared while watching the film. The movie explores that wonderful dark side of a kid's imagination, the one that includes intense subjects like ghosts and death and all that. It's good for children to get into those subjects. No one wants some shallow kid who's only into princesses. BORING. This is the kind of movie that can really stir a kid's creativity, right after they hide under the bed shivering with fear.
Age Range: Six and up. First graders should be mature enough to watch "Nightmare" and not get too freaked out over it. But for real, don't go showing this to a three-year-old. Looking at you, dude who dressed up as Jack Skellington for Comic Con.