To some guys, marriage
equals death. It's been that way for centuries, as evinced
by the folktale that inspired Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.
In that story, the young hero simply divorces his spectral
spouse before moving on with his life. Burton, a man who
himself has never married, cannot make it so simple. We
might find the prospect of marriage to a dead woman rather
unnerving, but the director above the title apparently finds
Why else cast
his significant muse other, Helena Bonham Carter, as the
titular character and make sure we know she's his
makes a pretty good case for the allure of the underworld.
Moreover, just as he did in The Nightmare Before Christmas,
the creator puts forth the essential harmlessness of the
darker side. In Burton's world, the things that go bump
in the night just want to have fun. Oh, heck, just go ahead
and call this Night of the Loving Dead.
earlier stop-motion masterpiece, this film has a small intimate
feel. Ultimately it has three major set pieces, and after
a meandering opening musical number, it keeps its focus
relatively straightforward. Danny Elfman plays the skeletal
Mr. Bonejangles, but only one of his songs actually adds
anything, unfortunately, taking care of the exposition explaining
how the bride became a corpse.
That's not to
say that music plays no part. The screenwriters have made
the piano an important motif (and a nod to Ray Harryhausen)
throughout, as Victor's (Johnny Depp) way of connecting
with the women in his life, both living and dead. In fact,
the scenes involving piano playing are downright charming
- and beautifully composed by Elfman.
and co-director Mike Johnson have made a macabre movie that
you can still call charming ...right up until the character
that splits in half to display gory plasticine innards.
Corpse Bride earns its PG-13 with little touches of
gore that could probably have been left out, but then it
might not have been so gleefully gloomy. Victor, stuck in
an arranged marriage to Victoria (Emily Watson), panics
and runs at the rehearsal dinner. Though he slowly discovers
he might actually love her, it comes too late as he accidentally
proposes to the Corpse Bride.
gets transported to the Land of the Dead, which is apparently
a literal underworld. If you had any doubts about which
realm Burton prefers, note that the living inhabit a world
of grey hues, while the dead get to be as colorful as ...well,
a Mexican Day of the Dead celebration. Burton and Johnson
do use more greens and blues than warmer colors, but the
point still gets made.
There all the
characters with any real character carouse about, including
Elder Gutknecht (Michael Gough), who serves as the Keeper
of Knowledge for the dead. Even being lively, they molder,
and Gutknecht is a cracked skeleton with a still impressive
goatee. Later on the film implies that these dead have a
reason to stay near the living, but only gets brought up
for one truly beautiful and touching scene.
Burton and Johnson have only refined the process of their
animation. While the characters still carry the stamp of
Burton's art, an evolution has begun taking place. The figure
of Victor moves and acts as recognizably Depp, though quite
an exaggerated version. With the advent of computers, the
animation team can also make everything smoother and less
like a Rankin-Bass special.
On a bittersweet
note, the villain of the piece Barkis Bittern (Richard E.
Grant) bears a strong resemblance to a certain incredible
Pixar character. The late Pixar gagman and genius Joe Ranft
has credit as executive producer, and his touches run throughout
the film. Ranft was killed a few weeks ago in a car accident,
and though no doubt Cars will still have his influence,
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride would make for a decent
As he's gotten
older and accepted his place as one of us, Burton has allowed
more and more sentiment to sneak into his films. He's still
Burton, of course, which keeps things from getting treacly,
but it's nice to see a filmmaker of such bombast as this
summer's still excellent Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
(yes, Goodson, I may still review it) spend time on a nice
little story like this.
would have thought the dead could be so sweet?