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CORPSE BRIDE (director: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson; screenwriter: Caroline Thompson/John August/Pamela Pettler; cinematographer: Pete Kozachik; editors: Jonathan Lucas/Chris Lebenzon; music: Danny Elfman; cast: with the voices of: Johnny Depp (Victor Van Dort), Helena Bonham Carter (Corpse Bride), Emily Watson (Victoria), Albert Finney (Finis Everglot), Joanna Lumley (Maudeline), Tracey Ullman (Nell Van Dort), Paul Whitehouse (William), Richard E. Grant (Barkis Bittern), Christopher Lee (Pastor Galswells); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Allison Abbate/Tim Burton; Warner Brothers; 2005)
“Passes for lightweight but slightly perverse family value entertainment.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

“Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride” is the filmmaker’s stop-motion animation feature about necrophilia that passes for lightweight but slightly perverse family value entertainment. It returns Burton to the 3-D animation of his previous hit The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). It’s co-directed by Burton and Mike Johnson, and is written by John August, Caroline Thompson and Pamela Pettler.

It’s set in an unnamed European village in the 19th Century. It plays as a dark fairy-tale about a shy and awkward young groom named Victor (Johnny Depp) from a social-climbing nouveau riche family of fish merchants ((Paul Whitehouse & Tracy Ullman), who is about to enter an arranged marriage with a titled but destitute family (Albert Finney & Joanna Lumley) to a bride he has never met–the equally timid but very sweet Victoria (Emily Watson). At the wedding rehearsal the nervous lad forgets his wedding vows and because of his clumsiness accidentally sets the bride’s snooty mother on fire. Practicing his vows in the dark woods out loud, Victor accidentally places a ring on the bony finger of a dead woman and finds himself dragged into the underworld and married to the marriage-obsessed Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter). She was slain on her own wedding night and has been waiting for her knight in shining armor to come and rescue her.

Meanwhile Victoria’s greedy parents waste little time finding her another groom, the villainous Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant)–an unexpected mysterious guest in their home who clearly has bad intentions when he schemes to marry Victoria.

Things get cheeky when the dead come up for air to visit the undead, as Victor wants to clue his would-be bride into the strange events he’s just been through. As the zombie-like characters romp around in the world of the living, things get dicey but manage to get straightened out as Victor and Victoria fall in love for real when they meet again. In the tradition of Cinderella, it all ends happily.

Danny Elfman provides the lackluster musical scores. The characters look and bounce around like puppets, while the animated backgrounds are colorfully decorated. The narrative is never anything more than sketchy, even though the overall effect is crowd-pleasing and most pleasant in a breezy sort of way. To really like this film means totally accepting its absurdity and silly characterizations, something I wasn’t fully prepared to do.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”