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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 37.1%
Average: 14.52%
Pretty Bad: 6.45%
Total Crap: 0.81%

12 reviews, 52 user ratings

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Corpse Bride
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by brianorndorf

"Gorgeous, but not the most inspired film around"
3 stars

Tim Burton’s latest foray into stop-motion animation, “Corpse Bride,” is a beautiful, extravagant example of what the medium can offer. However, the film is more tedious than expected. Burdened by a plot that doesn’t lend itself to the fantastical animation, and songs by Danny Elfman that fall flat immediately, “Bride” doesn’t quite sing like “Nightmare Before Christmas.” But never fear, for there’s enough eye-candy here to last for decades.

On the eve of his arranged wedding to a woman (voiced by Emily Watson) he has just met, Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) takes off into the woods to practice his tricky vows. After a successful rehearsal of his lines, Victor realizes he’s accidentally married the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter), who is elated to have found love at last. The Bride takes Victor to her underworld home of the dead, and looks forward to a new life with her very living husband. Victor, scared out of his wits, tries to rejoin the living, but soon finds himself caring for his rotting wife, while an evil suitor (Richard E. Grant) tries to muscle in on the bride he left behind.

After a 13 year absence since his cult hit “The Nightmare Before Christmas” took everyone by surprise, Tim Burton has cracked his head open once again to bestow on the world another morbid animated buffet using his weapon of choice: stop-animation.

As a technical exercise, “Corpse Bride” is the bee’s knees. Lavishly mounted, lovingly animated, and a virtual road map of Burton’s Rankin/Bass-colored subconscious, “Bride” is eye candy of the highest order. Taking full advantage of all the new shortcuts in the painstaking medium of stop-animation, and after having the risky “Christmas” experience turn out so well for him, Burton pushes full steam ahead with “Bride,” indulging his peculiar storytelling in personal ways never allowed before by the studios.

The exaggerated character designs are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the oddball sights in “Bride.” With chins like footballs, legs as thin and brittle as toothpicks, and eyes like billiard balls, the meticulous appearance of the characters is almost enough to fill two movies. Burton and his co-director Mike Johnson (“The PJ’s”) do a wonderful job nailing the minutiae of facial gestures and movement with each character. Burton also gets an opportunity to take his dark humor out for another lap, going even further than “Christmas” in terms of having fun with severed limbs and gaping wounds (while keeping the horror PG, of course). Burton and Johnson also employ a wonderful voice cast to fill out the picture (also including Albert Finney, Joanna Lumley, and Christopher Lee), with Johnny Depp in the most straight-laced role of his career. Of course, he has to occasionally play opposite a maggot that looks and sounds like Peter Lorre, so maybe it was smart of Depp to put away his bag of tricks this one time.

With all the macabre sights to keep the senses flowing, Burton and his screenwriters still couldn’t overcome one huge detail: “Corpse Bride” is unexpectedly dull. In “Christmas,” Burton had a premise the lent itself perfectly to the stop-motion world, bursting with colors, song, and drama. “Bride” is more of a 20-minute idea, stretched too tightly over 85 dragging minutes, the plot being more polite chatting than goosebump-inducing. When the movie features puppets, a conversation-intense animated film probably isn’t the best arena for the script; “Bride” lends itself better to live action, where the ghoulish disposition of the film would be better realized through nifty special effects and the magic that comes from flesh-and-blood acting. Again, while the animation wizardry is eye opening, all the technical expertise in the world can’t stop the film from feeling labored, and lacking some serious inspiration.

Burton tries to plug the pacing holes with another round of tunes from Danny Elfman, a vet of “Christmas.” Unfortunately, Elfman’s songs for “Bride” don’t lift the story up in the least. The tunes are unable to find a life of their own and feel exactly like the filler they were intended to be.

“Bride” starts to liven up in the third act, finding sillier ways to get its comedy across, which is exactly the kind of punch the rest of the film needed.

However much the film crawls, “Corpse Bride” is still quite an achievement in the small corner of the animation world it resides in and one that doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it deserves.

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originally posted: 09/16/05 15:06:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/07/12 Mayfield Love this movie. Great for adults and children. 5 stars
5/07/11 brian Burton/Depp/Elfman triumph again! 5 stars
4/29/09 Stephen Fantastic movie, verry macarbe for a young odiance, but can be enjoyed by all 5 stars
2/14/09 lola after this movie i am in love with emily. 5 stars
1/11/09 Anonymous. such a sweet story :] 4 stars
8/28/08 Shaun Wallner Well Made! 5 stars
1/05/08 Pamela White very cute in a dark way 4 stars
6/13/07 Dark Enchantress i loved it! 5 stars
5/13/07 ala burgeia i love it 5 stars
5/03/07 alkdjfh totally wicked awesome 5 stars
2/24/07 Clayton Excellent character development, emotional implications, accentuate soundtrack adds to mood 5 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega Small fry will enjoy it better than adults. 3 stars
1/28/07 mets1986 Just as good as Nightmare.... 5 stars
1/04/07 Alex Thorne didnt like NBC, and found this quite dull. doesnt live up to the hype 2 stars
11/18/06 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Brilliant movie, but boring soundtrack. Elfman needs to write stronger songs. 5 stars
10/08/06 isis coooooooooool!!!!!! 5 stars
8/16/06 Gemma Northcott I really like this film and i would watch it over and over. 5 stars
8/02/06 C. Davis Good, but I need another watch to catch what is so special 4 stars
7/18/06 David Cohen See Burton, you can still make a good movie if you try 5 stars
6/30/06 MP Bartley Grisly, spooky fun with with and heart. 4 stars
6/22/06 Joanie how scary 1 stars
5/28/06 AD I love this movie! Great job Tim Burton! 5 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer Don't compare to "nightmare" This movie stands firmly alone. Music wasn't great. 4 stars
3/12/06 C Vega good fairy tale movie but no way near as good as "nightmare" 4 stars
3/04/06 lilian best ever 5 stars
3/03/06 Doremimi Nice visually, but I was bored to DEATH! 3 stars
2/21/06 Annie G If you want to "Nightmare.." again, I'd recommend rewatching it instead. 3 stars
2/21/06 Jim Not sure what all the fuss was about 3 stars
2/05/06 HL Why even reference it to TNBC..This is incredible regardless of comparison! 5 stars
1/09/06 Jack Farnsworth Haven't seen it 5 stars
1/08/06 Quigley this movie was a work of directoral and visual genius. way to go, tim burton! oscars? 5 stars
12/24/05 Michele strange but cute 3 stars
12/23/05 Brian Johnson 2nd place to Nightmare, but still fun 4 stars
12/11/05 chris wonderful 5 stars
12/05/05 Hernan loved the music and character design 4 stars
11/08/05 malcolm drab colors were kinda boring. we've seen this style before. just a longcartoon. 3 stars
11/02/05 Jacqueline Ward-Isaac Brilliant film! Tim Burton lives up to The Nightmare Before Christmas! It was very amusing! 5 stars
10/27/05 Deadwiz Not as good as TNBC, but it will do... 4 stars
10/25/05 Adam The visuals are great, but the plot is predictable; the ending was lacking..felt unfinished 3 stars
10/22/05 Tina Totally enjoyed it - beautiful to watch and fun. 5 stars
10/16/05 Quigley why isn't anyone stating the obvious? this film is a visual, geniusly done masterpiece 5 stars
10/10/05 LOLO Outstanding and truly lovely film. Maybe not as good as NBC but has its own charm! 5 stars
10/05/05 Sam Really great, probably one to see again and again. But never as good as NmBC! 5 stars
10/05/05 drfardook Visually... its very good. Plot is ok, but the characters motivations fall flat. 3 stars
10/03/05 Meryl Stupid, half-finished, musically deficient dreck. What happened, Tim? What happened? 2 stars
10/03/05 Bee We've wanted to see this film since the previews came out, months ago. Today, on a 'dark a 5 stars
10/03/05 watson387 Excellent! 5 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam Burton charmingly revisits eerie themes, bizarre vistas & transgressive characters. 3 stars
9/26/05 KingNeutron Nicely animated, but the 2 major plot decisions don't make sense. 3 stars
9/24/05 Titus Glad I saw it, but once was plenty. Kinda forced and dry. Not Burton's best. 3 stars
9/16/05 mike b just saw a screening; not as much music as the nightmare before xmas flick, but very good! 4 stars
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  16-Sep-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 31-Jan-2006



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