a critiQal film review Corpse Bride (2005)

Plot: While practicing his vows for his upcoming wedding to Victoria (Carter), Victor (Depp) accidentally proposes to Emily, who is very lively for a person in her state of decomposition. Now, Victor is stuck in the Land of the Dead with a wife he never expected.

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  • ...despite having to get used to some odd animation, the viewer should enjoy this latest flick from kooky Tim Burton.

Tim Burton has been the master of off-kilter movies for years. Not the kind that are so bizarre they are hard to even comprehend (that’s more David Lynch’s forte), Tim Burton instead makes films that are ever so slightly…not normal. Edward Scissorhands (a love story about a man with scissors for hands), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) (the king of Halloweentown discovers Christmastown), even the recent remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) (with a wild-n-wacky performance by Johnny Depp).

So, when Heather and I first saw a preview for Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, we had to see what oddities Tim Burton had come up with this time. Thanks to Blockbuster®, our DVD rental copy arrived quickly in the mail after the film’s DVD release date, and we immediately decided to find out what Tim Burton had in store for us with Corpse Bride.

Actors tend to really dive into their roles with abandon when their face isn’t shown on the screen. Voice acting has gotten immensely popular over the years, and it seems every actor is jumping at the chance of voicing a character in a film. Maybe it’s the feel of anonymity a voice role brings as opposed to a normal film role for these big name actors.

Whatever the case may be, the viewers are the ones reaping the benefits, and that doesn’t change in Corpse Bride. Johnny Depp and Helen Bonham Carter (Victor and Victoria, respectively) are able to convey their characters’ emotions impressively just with the use of their voices. And those two aren’t the only talented actors playing a part in Corpse Bride, either. Albert Finney, Christopher Lee, Tracey Ullman, Joanna Lumley and Emily Watson also contribute their considerable voice talents to making Corpse Bride an enjoyment to listen to.

Leave it to Tim Burton to take the rather morbid idea of necrophilia and turn it into a comedy. Sure, it’s been done before (My Boyfriend’s Back (1993), for example), but Tim Burton takes it to another level of oddness by throwing in a couple of musical numbers and an interesting cross-section of dead caricatures (including one who easily conjures up a reference to Napoleon Bonaparte).

Tim Burton, when it comes right down to it, does a great job of capturing the very human emotion of love on-screen, causing the viewer to appreciate all the more the trials and tribulations the main characters go through – no matter how bizarre they might be. The bottom line – Tim Burton makes a love story guys can appreciate as much as the women in their life do.

The whole look of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is incredibly stylized, and takes a bit getting used to. The caricatures (it’s hard to call them characters after seeing them) seem to be a quirky combination of classic Japanese anime (big eyes) mixed with stick figures (very simplistic in their overall appearance). The colors of the film all are very toned down, but still sharp in contrast, especially the drabness of the living compared to the colorful, party-like atmosphere of the land of the dead.

Plus, Tim Burton returns to the stop-motion animation that made The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) such a standout, and does so with a practiced hand. His puppets are light-years beyond anything else other filmmakers have been able to accomplish with this technique (and don’t even try to compare the claymation figures from The Curse of the Were-Rabbit to it – Tim Burton’s stop-motion techniques make Wallace and Gromit look even more childish than usual).

While the look of Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride does take some getting used to, the storyline is engrossing enough to draw the viewer in right from the start. The musical numbers are well done, and Danny Elfman hasn’t yet lost a step when it comes to scoring films, but some of the lyrics are mumbled enough that they are largely unintelligible.

The voices of the caricatures of the film are all well-voiced otherwise, however, and help to make Corpse Bride another Tim Burton film worth watching.

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