Corpse Bride

Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 10/25/05 15:22:57

"Death Becomes Her"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Twelve years after producing 'The Nightmare Before Christmas,' director Tim Burton returns with his latest foray in stop-motion animation, 'Corpse Bride.' What results is a triumph of Burtonís indelible style over substance, but only by a small margin.

Victor (Johnny Depp) is a timid young man, soon to be married off by his parents to the equally-shy Victoria (Emily Watson), whom he has never before met. Though Victor and Victoria hit it off during a brief encounter prior to their wedding rehearsal, he fails to properly recite his vows, and is dismissed by the pastor to go over them outside. In the nearby woods, Victor rehearses his vows and places the ring on a branch. The branch turns out to actually be the finger of the Corpse Bride (voiced by Burtonís real-life wife, Helena Bonham Carter), much to her delight and his dismay. Victor must then decide if he wants to join the Corpse Bride in the underworld or if he still wishes to marry Victoria in the living realm.

As expected, Burton once again tackles a tale of the marvelously macabre with his own distinct sense of whimsy. The pain-staking animation pays off in sweeping fluid motion, and each environment reflects his tendencies for the gorgeously Gothic. The land of the living is drenched in bleak shades of gray, while the land of the dead is a lively, jazzy realm. In contrast, it is often implied that the characters are better off dead (Corpse Bride only seems to reinforce this notion, which Burton previously tackled in Beetlejuice and Nightmare).

The story is a basic and predictable one, though it never outstays its welcome (the film itself runs a brisk 75 minutes). The characters are adequate, the puns are frequent, and the songs are tolerable, if completely unnecessary. The biggest problem with Corpse Bride is, like the character, it has no heart. Deppís Victor is a weak protagonist to pull for, and the focus falls on the Corpse Bride, whose rushed backstory proves to be the sole source of sympathy on her behalf. The other characters and their respective motives seem to exist either for plot propulsion or punchlines, with few exceptions (such as the sarcastic maggot that resides in the Corpse Brideís head).

The art direction alone is destined for awards glory, and donít expect much surprise from this end if the film ends up taking home the Best Animated Feature Oscar next spring. Although visually captivating from beginning to end, Tim Burtonís Corpse Bride manages to leave behind a cold, hollow feeling with the viewer.

Nonetheless, this tale of a young man and the ghoul next door carries a morbid charm and whimsical nature that is capable of winning over most any cynic.

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