Publicity Stills of "Corpse Bride"
(Courtesy from Warner Bros)

Genre: Stop Motion Animation
Director: Tim Burton
Starring (Voice Talents of): Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Emily Watson
RunTime: 1 hr 16 mins
Released By: Warner Bros
Rating: PG

Release Date: 29 September 2005

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Set in a 19th century European village, this stop-motion, animated feature follows the story of Victor (voiced by JOHNNY DEPP), a young man who is whisked away to the underworld and wed to a mysterious Corpse Bride (voiced by HELENA BONHAM-CARTER), while his real bride, Victoria (voiced by EMILY WATSON), waits bereft in the land of the living. Though life in the Land of the Dead proves to be a lot more colorful than his strict Victorian upbringing, Victor learns that there is nothing in this world, or the next, that can keep him away from his one true love. It’s a tale of optimism, romance and a very lively afterlife, told in classic Tim Burton style.

Movie Review:

Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride” is about the shy and soft-spoken Victor Van Dort, who while practicing his vows in the woods unwittingly marries a, well, corpse bride when he places the ring on her twig-like finger. The deceased heroine is Emily, voiced by Helena Bonham Carter; Victor features the voice talent of Johnny Depp. Emily Watson lends voice to Victor’s living fiancée Victoria (how convenient) Everglot, the beautiful daughter of fallen aristocrats.

Victor and Victoria have never met but inexplicably feel affection towards the other when they finally do. Their love is sweet but not fairy-tale-nauseating (this, after all, is Tim Burton we’re talking about) and this may sound strange, but the two characters seem to share a genuine chemistry. Rather, they seem to share a chemistry that transcends the animation, something that seems larger than life, if you will. Perhaps it is the stop-motion animation, or Danny Elfman’s elegant score that contributes to this effect, a surreal effect that I can’t quite put a finger on. The grotesque shapes that the living and dead take on in “Corpse Bride” are such extreme caricatures that it seems hardly possible for them to feel realistic, yet they do, and charmingly at that.

What goes on for the rest of this movie leaves little to the imagination: Victor and Emily seem to be gradually appreciating conjugal bliss, Victoria is soon to be married off to a villainous third party (Richard E. Grant voicing character of Barkis Bittern), the would-be Van Dorts pine for each other, so on and so forth. There’s none of the wonderful meandering as in “Big Fish” or the vibrant adventure that was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”; “Corpse Bride” is simple and short, and good for it. It would have been rather a pain, for audiences and animators alike, to have the movie stretch out to a more commercial 100 minutes.

The dark, drab hues of the land of the living finely juxtapose the riotous colours of the netherworld, which unlike the former is richly infused with song, dance and presumably, happiness. Consequently, the movie is hardly eerie but indeed rather child-friendly in unexpected ways (nope, no purple dinosaurs or the like) such as the featuring of Victor’s now skeletal dog, Scraps. The slightly horrifying sight of a dog of bones might be initially disturbing but Scraps is delightful and dapper anyway, and perhaps even more endearing in its fur-less-ness. Besides, what better way to comfort and/or convince children of animal heaven?

As for the adults, pickings are slightly slimmer. The movie ekes out many good laughs and is wry with silly puns (which arguably still require a good ear to seek out) but some may just find it too simplistic for their tastes. Yet, why not? After all, simplicity is highly underrated, all the more so in blockbuster-rife Hollywood.

With “Corpse Bride”, Tim Burton has achieved yet another glowing addition to his increasingly idiosyncratic and illustrious resume. What I like most about this movie is the stop-motion animation, which is one of a kind and breath taking in its bizarre way. Perhaps one of his more revealing productions yet, Burton’s love for the gothic and quirky and the eternal ‘outsiders’ (think Edward Scissorhands, Willy Wonka, the community of the dead as well as Victor Van Dort et cetera) are most ingeniously melded into “Corpse Bride”, making it a gem; so strange, so beautiful, so Burton-esque, in all its glory.

Movie Rating:

(Two words – “Tim Burton”. You don’t go much wrong with that!)

Review by Angeline Chui

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