Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005) / Animation-Fantasy
aka Corpse Bride
MPAA Rated: PG for scary images
Running Time: 76 min.
Cast (voices): Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Tracy Ullman, Paul WEhitehouse, Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney, Richard E. Grant, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Deep Roy, Danny Elfman
Director: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
Screenplay: John August, Pamela Pettler
Review published September 28, 2005
No, this isn't a sequel or a spin-off to Tim Burton's 1993 classic The Nightmare Before Christmas, although it certainly does look like one on first glance. Not that it's a rip-off either, as this is a self-contained movie with its own themes and sense of style, although there isn't much else that we haven't seen before from Burton's dreamland of ideas. Still, this is as polished and fully realized an animated feature as there has been for some time, and even if Burton isn't treading any new ground, no one else is really doing the same kind of movie. At a mere 76 minutes, it feels just right, in this escapist creation that delights not only with sights and sounds, but even offers an oddly touching romance that you might not expect.
Burton favorite Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland) supplies the voice of the main protagonist, Victor Van Dort, who is about to enter an arranged marriage with Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson, Equilibrium), an innocent victim of a formerly rich family looking to capitalize on the marriage by restoring wealth to their family again. Victor has trouble reciting his marriage vows, but he finally gets them right while practicing in the dark woods on the way home, little realizing that there is a woman there to accept his marriage proposal in the form of a corpse (Helena Bonham Carter, Big Fish) buried just beneath. No longer able to marry Victoria, Victor must find a way back to claim the woman he fancies, although his new corpse bride has many qualities he admires, and he is conflicted between accepting his fate in the netherworld for eternity or going back above ground to marry his living love interest.
Corpse Bride is a beautiful stop-motion animation so finely realized that you'd swear it was computer animated. Everything is sumptuously presented, intricate in minute detail, making this an eye-candy lover's delight from start to finish. Burton's partner in rhyme, Danny Elfman (Spider-Man 2, Hulk), provides another memorable score, and even supplies a few songs to the soundtrack that enhance the overall experience. It is a film bursting at the seams with a talented group of people that have spent most of their careers making just this sort of thing, so in many ways, the fact it doesn't miss should come as little surprise.
If there is a downside, it's from the aforementioned similarity to Nightmare Before Christmas, from the look of the characters to the manner in which it is presented -- visual gags mixed with musical numbers. Perhaps it would have been better to have made Corpse Bride reside in the same universe as Nightmare, if only to have the similarities between the two films make perfect sense. This is a minor issue, mind you, as you probably will still be enrapt in the story and vivid imagination once it all gets going.
Burton's fanatics will once again have reason to rejoice, as he has crafted another animated fantasy that definitely delivers in quality, although some of his more critical fans may feel that he is stepping back rather than growing as a filmmaker with this entry. Sure, Burton is digging up ideas buried long ago, but like the dead characters portrayed in the film, Corpse Bride shows there is still a lot of life left in them.
©2005 Vince Leo