TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE
***1/2 (out of 5)
September 23, 2005
Johnny Depp as VICTOR VAN DORT
Helena Bonham Carter as CORPSE BRIDE
Emily Watson as VICTORIA EVERGLOT
Tracey Ullman as NELL VAN DORT/HILDEGARDE
Paul Whitehouse as WILLIAM VAN DORT
Joanna Lumley as MAUDELINE EVERGLOT
Albert Finney as FINNIS EVERGLOT
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
At the end of “Time Burton’s Corpse Bride,” I found myself feeling the same way I had after first watching “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” While it was a visually stunning and original film, I wasn’t completely satisfied. There was something missing.
Maybe it was the less-than-80-minute running time. Maybe the movie just happened too fast. Maybe it was because one of the characters reminded me of Burgermeister Meister Burger from the old stop-motion classic “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Whatever the case, I felt a strange feeling of emptiness afterwards.
In time, I’m sure that “Corpse Bride” will grow on me as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” did, and I will soon see it as a classic. Unfortunately, having too high of expectations can soften the initial experience.
On the plus side – and there are many plusses to this film – “Corpse Bride” is probably one of the most unique films you’ll see all year. The stop-motion animation is mind-blowing and the sets are incredible. The character design is as snappy as it was in “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
With the production design and the animation style, “Corpse Bride” is quintessential Tim Burton. What other person in the industry could tell a love story between a living man and a rotting corpse?
I have always been a Tim Burton fan. Even his bad films are great. Most of them (with the exception of “Ed Wood” and “Big Fish”) have weak plots, flimsy characters and often bad acting. But the experience is what sets them apart. I even liked the much-maligned “Planet of the Apes.”
Somehow, when these elements get transferred into stop-motion animation, I find them a little less forgivable. However, upon reflection, I will grow to love this movie.
Johnny Depp teams with Burton for the 500th time as the voice of Victor Van Dort, a young man who is betrothed to a woman he has never met. While she’s a sweetheart, her parents are conniving gold diggers, hoping Victor’s rich family can help save them from bankruptcy.
After blowing his vows in the wedding rehearsal, Victor flees to the forest and places the ring on a random twig… only this isn’t a twig, but instead the finger of a murdered bride-to-be. By placing the ring on her finger and saying his vows, Victor becomes married to the corpse and is whisked away to the underworld. He must try to get back to his living fiancée and somehow annul his marriage to the corpse, who really is a nice girl once you get to know her.
Like “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Corpse Bride” is given a corrupted Disney-style treatment with a selection of song-and-dance numbers, written by film scorer and former Oingo Boingo artist Danny Elfman. The music works to a degree, and it does further the story instead of just being thrown in for show. However, sometimes the lyrics are hard to understand with all the singing corpses and skeletons, and you can miss some important plot points.
The real stars of this film are the models rather than the voices behind them. While Johnny Depp is a master actor, the real life comes from the animated clay that is Victor. And although it bears a striking resemblance to Depp, it looks more like Harry Potter as he is illustrated on the original book covers.
The only place the animation really breaks down is in the emotions of the Corpse Bride herself. Voiced by home-wrecker and Burton’s main squeeze Helena Bonham Carter, the corpse seems to not have enough life in it.
Tim Burton fans will love this film. To them, it should be a religious experience. And the animation is slick enough to necessitate seeing on the big screen. If you can let the flimsy story slide, you should be able to enjoy one heck of a puppet show.