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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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Rob Gonsalves

"Morbidly lovely eye candy; just don't think too hard about it."
4 stars

A maggot and a black widow spider sing a duet to raise the spirits of a brokenhearted dead woman. A man is reunited with the playful skeleton of his childhood puppy. This and more are on view in Tim Burton's 'Corpse Bride,' a sportive vision of the macabre.

Burton thinks in intuitive images, and there are sights here that I would love to have framed on my wall -- the image of the Corpse Bride, in her sooty gauze floating around her decaying blue flesh, slowly approaching her "suitor" on a bridge in the dead of night. Some of Corpse Bride has the iconic power of great silent cinema, and Burton is so cavalier about -- and accepting of -- the conditions of death and dismemberment that I can't imagine anyone but the smallest child finding it frightening.

Unfortunately, Corpse Bride seems to have been made for that smallest child. Burton has tended towards mainstream pursuits in recent years, and though I've stood by him thick and thin -- I enjoyed his Planet of the Apes remake for what it was (in the face of near-unanimous ridicule), and Mars Attacks! deserves serious re-appraisal as some sort of nutbrain classic -- I've been dispirited by how little fight he seems to have put up against the mainstream. Corpse Bride clocks in at a whiplash 74 minutes, and it might have been even shorter if not for several uninspired Danny Elfman songs, which here feel like padding. It's as if Burton and his co-director Mike Johnson had one eye on the clock, so as not to bore ... well, what audience, exactly? The audience for Corpse Bride will indulge just about anything gothy and Burton-esque from Burton. But they may not indulge him this time.

Johnny Depp gives voice to Victor Van Dort, a skittish young man who is to be married, whether he wants to or not, to the pleasant if boring Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson). Victor blunders through the wedding rehearsal, and when running through the procedure alone in the woods one night, he slips the wedding ring on what he takes to be a branch but is the finger of Emily, the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter). Emily pursues the horrified Victor and brings him into the land of the dead, which is designed to look much more colorful than the land of the living. Bones rise up and sing, swapping skulls and dancing with halved cadavers, bodiless heads, skeletons with luridly jutting jaws. The tone is both antic and morbid; Burton is in his element.

Fans of 1993's Nightmare Before Christmas expecting another Burton-Elfman stop-motion triumph, however, need to dial their expectations down a notch. Elfman's songs for that goth favorite had infinitely more variety, and the movie found show-biz funkiness in the creepy and ghastly. Corpse Bride, technically impeccable though it is, plays like the work of a fervent Tim Burton imitator. The look is certainly in place, and some of the jocular sinisterness is fun. But Victor is a singularly dull character, and we can't see why either Victoria or Emily wants him; the irony is that this is a romantic triangle without romance. Victor is caught between death and life, but neither one seems to be fighting very hard for his soul.

Towards the finish, the movie takes a turn towards disaster, when a nefarious character turns up and instigates, of all things, a sword fight. None of this was in the Russian folk tale Burton is borrowing, a fable derived from actual anti-Semetic violence and tragedy. In that tale, the living bride promises to live the Corpse Bride's dreams, and the bereft cadaver finally rests in peace. Here, Victor seems ready to join Emily in death, until Victoria -- whom he's known barely a day -- shows up.

In the context of the film, and of Burton's work, it seems like a sad capitulation to the "normal." Will Victor really be happy in the glum land of the living, with Victoria's horrid parents looming over him? And what about Scraps, Victor's long-lost dead puppy? Won't the poor little guy miss Victor? 'Corpse Bride' has been envisioned but not thought through.

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originally posted: 01/26/07 15:35:56
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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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