Sunday, October 25, 2009

Corpse Bride (2005)

The Nightmare Before Christmas was one of the best fairy tale films I’ve ever seen, with its excellent Danny Elfman soundtrack, unforgettable characters, wondrous plot, and amazing stop-motion animation. I loved that film enough to see it four times in the theater, and bought the soundtrack immediately after the first viewing. When I learned that Tim Burton was going to re-visit the gothic, stop-motion style for a new film based on and old Russian-Jewish folktale, I was very excited!

It turned out that the Corpse Bride was a disappointment, but a BEAUTIFUL disappointment. The stop-motion animation, coupled with the advanced effects of the 21st century, creates a fascinating, gloomy world, not a far cry from Halloween Town, and a little more consistent. This is offset by the more colorful Land of the Dead, where numerous scenes are set, and is more reminiscent of the underworld from Beetlejuice. The film is so aesthetically pleasing that it’s a joy to watch, even though the tale itself wasn’t as impressive as Nightmare.

The dour Everglots and the fishmongering Van Dorts have arranged a marriage for their children (cutely named Victor and Victoria), which will financially benefit one or the other family. Though the awkward Victor kicks it off with the sweet Victoria, his clumsiness at the rehearsal earns him a ‘chill out’ in the graveyard woods outside of town, where, during a mock wedding vow, he accidentally places his ring on the skeletal finger of Emily, who perished while waiting for her bride to be (the diabolical con man Lord Barkis Bittern). Victor is brought to the Land of the Dead by his unfortunate bride, and chaos ensues from there, with a climax both sad and happy.

The Corpse Bride makes for a stunning sight, as she whirls about in her wedding garb and eye catching blue hair. Think Sally from Nightmare, but hotter…and voiced by Helena Bonham Carter. In addition to Carter, the other usual actors show up: Johnny Depp as Victor, Christopher Lee as Pastor Galswells, plus Albert Finney, Emily Watson, Deep Roy, Danny Elfman, and many others. The voice work in the film is consistent and excellent, though the music is nowhere near as memorable as Nightmare Before Christmas. The one song I enjoyed was the duet between black widow Mrs. Plum and Maggot. Humor abounds in this film, from the caricature-like characters to a slew of puns, some of which succeed, others of which are too dry and simple. It’s great for the kids, but be warned, it’s a little morbid (like most Burton films).

Again, I’d recommend watching this for your eyes to pop out of their sockets. It’s a marvel, and you can tell the animators put enormous effort into every frame of the film. The rest of the film is passable, an effective gothic fairy tale, but I was not blown away as I was in 1993 with its spiritual predecessor, which remains one of the greatest films in memory.

Verdict: Win [7/10]

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