Movie Notes: Corpse Bride
= 3 stars
Starring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson
Directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
This film is pretty amazing in terms on animation, and somewhat makes up for an odd, lacking feeling in both plot and music. I have to give Burton credit for making death and creepy characters children’s fare, but this particular outing feels a bit like a repeat of previous dusty stuff.
Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) is a wussy gentleman whose parents have him lined up to marry Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson). He messes up the ceremony and drops the ring in a forest and accidentally proposes to a haunted bride (Helena Bonham Carter).
The good are the inventive character designs and stellar animation. The art design demonstrates an outstanding understanding of caricature, and funny cartooning – the look of the characters is driven by their personalities. Innocents have wide eyes like saucers, while evil, uptight ones constricting necks and hairstyles. There’s also a fairly brilliant flip-around in how the living world is drab and gray while the dead world is south-of-the-border wacky, reminiscent of the afterlife scenes in Beetlejuice (also Tim Burton) or the day of the dead celebration.
The stop-motion animation displays an obsessive attention to detail in the way Victor plays the piano, or how hanging objects like a beard or a floppy hair-do sway as if in real time.
What’s not so good is that I never felt much of a connection to these somber, gothy characters. Victor is an idiot and I couldn’t relate to his confusion about who to marry, especially when the Corpse Bride comes across as rather selfish and Victoria is someone he also just met. There are also many peripheral characters that seem superfluous, especially the dear, dead friends of the Bride. I had no attachment to the big-lipped worm, the skeletal dog, the spider, or the sliced-in-half-guy.
The music is also lacking, especially in comparison to The Nightmare Before Christmas – which had several Elfman songs that were instantly memorable. One in particular was so intentionally haunting it nearly moved me to tears upon first hearing (Sally’s Song). With the Corpse Bride I can’t recall a single tune.
If you have any interest in this flick, I’d recommend The Nightmare Before Christmas first, and the other closely-related films James And The Giant Peach and the daffy-on-taffy Charlie And The Chocolate Factory. For my one cornball pun per review: Corpse Bride is half-alive and the other D.O.A.