Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride – Review – Movies – New York Times
Posted On January 27, 2005
(I am excited to see this…what does that say about me? I am a romantic child fascinated by death….cd)
A necrophiliac entertainment for the whole family to enjoy, “Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” marks the director’s latest venture into the world of stop-motion animation, following “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “James and the Giant Peach.” As in “Nightmare,” kooky and spooky things go bump in the night, this time in the service of a lightly kinked romance about a melancholic boy, the girl he hopes to marry and the bodacious cadaver that accidentally comes between them.
Directed by Mr. Burton and Mike Johnson, and written by John August, Caroline Thompson and Pamela Pettler, the story hangs on a timid bachelor with matchstick legs and a pallid complexion, Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp), whose upwardly mobile parents arrange his marriage to Victoria (Emily Watson), the retiring daughter of impoverished gentry. When the wedding rehearsal goes kablooey, Victor retreats into the woods, whereupon he becomes the reluctant object of desire of the Corpse Bride, a blue-tinted beauty with gnawed-through limbs and a miraculously preserved bosom (Helena Bonham Carter, the director’s very alive partner). Together, the eerie couple descends into the land of shades, inducing Victor to trade the world of the barely living for the land of the exuberantly dead.
For Victor and for his two directors, the underworld soon proves a more hospitable place than the world above, and far more entertaining. Above, the living shuffle about as somnolently as zombies amid a rainbow of gray, while down below, the walls are splashed with absinthe green, and the skeletons shake, rattle and roll. Bursting with mischief and life of a sort (think the grinning skulls of the Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada), these skeletons dance themselves to pieces for a bravura musical number marred only by the composer Danny Elfman’s insistence on recycling the same string of notes again and again. The notes reverberate more pleasantly when a gathering of spiders mend Victor’s suit, notably because they trill a Gilbert and Sullivan pastiche as they stitch.
It all ends happily ever after, of course, though not before Mr. Burton and company have gathered the dead with the undead, and given a kick in the pants to a pinched-faced pastor even more shriveled than the bride herself. The anticlerical bit gives the story a piquant touch, while the reunion between the corpses and the ostensibly living further swells the numbers of zombies that have lately run amok in the movies. Cinema’s reinvigorated fixation with the living dead suggests that we are in the grip of an impossible longing, or perhaps it’s just another movie cycle running its course. Whatever the case, there is something heartening about Mr. Burton’s love for bones and rot here, if only because it suggests, despite some recent evidence, that he is not yet ready to abandon his own dark kingdom.
“Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). Tiny tots may be alarmed by the film’s cast of critters.
Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride
Opens today in New York, Los Angeles and Toronto.
Directed by Mike Johnson and Tim Burton; written by John August, Caroline Thompson and Pamela Pettler; director of photography, Pete Kozachik; edited by Jonathan Lucas and Chris Lebenzon; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Alex McDowell; produced by Mr. Burton and Allison Abbate; executive producers, Jeffrey Auerbach and Joe Ranft; released by Warner Brothers Pictures. Running time: 76 minutes. This film is rated PG.
WITH THE VOICES OF: Johnny Depp (Victor Van Dort), Helena Bonham Carter (Corpse Bride), Emily Watson (Victoria), Albert Finney (Finis Everglot), Joanna Lumley (Maudeline), Tracey Ullman (Nell Van Dort) and Paul Whitehouse (William).