The Corpse Bride (2005) — Marriage in the afterlife

“I’ve got a… dwarf, and I’m not afraid to use him!”

PoolMan’s rating: It’s no Jack Skellington, but it’ll do.

PoolMan’s review: Poor Tim Burton. The man can’t win for losing. I mean, how many dark-humoured, almost-but-not-quite-suitable-for-the-whole-family movies can one man make before he seems to dip into his own material? The man who brought us The Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice is back again with another bunch of excessively skinny people diving in and out of the world of the deceased.

Now, maybe that’s not quite fair. I shouldn’t be comparative right off the bat! Corpse Bride is definitely its own story, even if it does share a lot of the same qualities as Burton’s previous hits. Fashioned after a folk story (Russian, I believe), we join our trembling hero Victor (voiced wonderfully by Johnny Depp) on the eve of his arranged wedding to Victoria (yes, that’s right. Victor and Victoria. Thank GOD I never met a woman named Shawna). Victor’s never met his bride to be, and he’s understandably flustered. However, his worries are put largely to rest when he finally meets the lovely Victoria, as it seems they’re actually a wonderful match.

Unfortunately, nothing can truly warm a man with cold feet, and after Victor botches his rather complicated vows (seriously, check out the lines and actions this guy has to perform just to get married), he runs away into the woods, embarrassed. He finally correctly recites the entire vow while rehearsing alone in the forest, and puts the ring on what he thinks to be a dead branch. The branch turns out to be a dead woman’s arm, and lo and behold, Victor has married the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter).

Having been stood up by the last man she was engaged to until she died, the Bride is naturally thrilled to have her new man. Victor is less than impressed, of course, to be suddenly married to a half rotten body in a veil, and spends the rest of the film trying desperately to escape the Land of the Dead and get back to Victoria.

For any sense of déjà vu you might get from Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride really stands out on its own. Still done in full blown stop motion animation (take that, computer animation!), the film has a genuinely creepy but wonderful feel to it. From the colourless Land of the Living to the constantly vibrant Land of the Dead, everything is as well designed as you would expect from Burton. The characters are all wonderfully designed, living and dead alike, and the scenery is gorgeous.

I guess the only things I would really take away from Corpse Bride are that constant feeling of “been there, done that” from his previous films — and the fact it’s dang short. The credits roll awfully quick, which makes the story feel a little underdeveloped (even if the real reason is probably the immense amount of work it takes to do stop motion). But what’s there is quality; the movie is beautiful, the jokes plentiful, and the heroes are all so skinny they vanish when they turn sideways.

This is definitely worth a first viewing, and if you were a big TNBC or Beetlejuice fan, you may just find yourself another new favourite. Bone appetit!

Mike’s rating: Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Boy marries hot dead chick.

Mike’s review: Tim Burton is my hero. Aside from making some of the coolest movies of the past ten years, he also gets valuable cool points (redeemable for candy) for making two movies in 2006, not back to back, but at the same time, using primarily the same cast!

Burton’s style is well known to anyone who’s watched movies in the past 20 years. This has led to some detractors claiming he’s a one-note director who makes the same picture over and over again. These people should be ostracized and shunned. While he does have a very distinctive style and I’ll be the first to admit he is hit and miss (Planet of the Apes, anyone?), his hauntingly beautiful visuals and creepy yet whimsical stories put him up there with the greats.

Longtime Burton “go-to” guy Johnny Depp lends his voice to the much put-upon Victor, and darned if he’s not spot on. Emily Watson brings more sweetness to Victoria than any animated character had any business having, and Helena Bonham Carter is just great as Emily. Special nods go to Joanna Lumley and Christopher Lee.

Anyone who’s seen The Nightmare Before Christmas will know right away this is vintage Burton. The dark, haunted woods, gothic monotone villages, or the vibrant, colorful land of the dead — it’s Burton’s show from start to finish. The character design is inspired, from Victor’s stick figure frame, to the Corpse Bride’s volumptuous curves. My favorite character? The worm who seems to be channeling Peter Lorre. Priceless. Of course, Danny Elfman’s score is terrific, and fans of the former Oingo Boingo frontman get a treat as he joins the cast as the skeletal band leader, Bonejangles.

If the though of a Tim Burton movie sends you rolling your eyebrows, this might not be your movie. If, however, the thought of a Burton movie send you swirling into oceans of gothy ecstasy, or if you’re a fan of the Harryhausen stop-motion movies of old, or even if you’re just looking to get your Johnny Depp fix, check this one out. There’s a chance you might just find yourself falling in love, ’till death do you part.

Didja Notice?

  • The “Harryhausen” piano in Victoria’s house. This would naturally be a tribute to stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen.
  • Boy, pretty much everyone’s either skinny as a rail or wide as a house, eh?
  • “Head” waiter. Yeah, I get it.
  • Is that… is that supposed to be Ray Charles on the piano?
  • I’ve never seen one guy split up before!
  • Why are there living crows everywhere in the Land of the Dead?
  • The Bride certainly has problems with that one eye.
  • The Peter Lorre lookalike worm?
  • The suit scene is probably not good for most arachnophobes.
  • The Gone With the Wind homage can be seen coming from a mile away, but it’s still funny.
  • For a pile of bones, Scraps is pretty cute.

One comment

  1. “Why are there living crows everywhere in the Land of the Dead?”
    My theory: Corvids are often seen as travelers between the lands of the living and the dead because they are liminal creatures (inhabiting both earth and sky), and they tend to hang around corpses. Ergo, it makes sense for them to be alive in both worlds.

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