Corpse Bride (2005)

Reviewed by Andrew Kasch

Starring the voices of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emliy Watson, Tracy Ulman

Directed by Tim Burton

Goths and Hot Topic consumers can now rejoice: Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is here at last. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade since The Nightmare Before Christmas, a film that still has one of the most obsessive cult followings imaginable. So let’s get one thing straight, shall we? Burton’s latest is not its successor, nor does it pretend to be.

Accident-prone Victor (Johnny Depp) is about to go through an arranged marriage with fiancée Victoria (Emily Watson). After a disastrous wedding rehearsal, the jittery hubby-to-be gets cold feet and flees into the woods where he accidentally awakens the soul of a dead jilted bride (Helena Bonham Carter). The talking corpse immediately claims a terrified Victor as her husband and whisks him away to the underworld, where the dead have prepared a huge celebration.

Burton’s first stop-motion film (Nightmare was directed by Henry Selick, as I’m sure you know) is an absolutely gorgeous piece of eye candy and features everything you would expect from the director: Quirky performances, gallows humor, and a heavy dose of German expressionism. Likewise, composer Danny Elfman bombards us with his typical gothic chants and a few catchy musical numbers along the way.

But this is also why Corpse Bride falls just short of greatness. The filmmakers deliver their typical routine and little else. There’s passion and skill but also an overwhelming sense of familiarity. Story wise, this is just as formulaic as any Disney movie and many jokes feel like leftover gags from the director’s previous films. While Corpse Bride is still very entertaining, there’s a feeling that Burton & Co. are simply repeating themselves and it doesn’t help that it follows directly on the heels of their brilliant Charlie and the Chocolate Factory adaptation.

But even at his most repetitive, Burton is still better than most modern day filmmakers and his creative energy rises over the film’s clichés. In an age where animation is dominated by computer images, it’s refreshing to see old school stop-motion alive and kicking. While Corpse Bride may not be the instant classic people were hoping for, it’s still a fun piece of escapism that should give fans a nice quick fix.

3 ½ out of 5

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