Corpse Bride (2005)

Posted by on Dec 22, 2011 in Out of This World | 0 comments

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Disclaimer: Necrophilia, death, decapitation, and dismemberment; but it’s all in good fun – really.

More often than not, the centerpieces of imaginative director Tim Burton’s films are his gothic-inspired settings and landscapes. From Gotham City and Halloweentown to Sleepy Hollow and Wonderland, Burton has brought viewers to fascinating and dark worlds time and time again. With this installment, he introduces two ironic realms – one dark and bland, the other bright and eventful – to represent the lands of the living and dead, respectively.

As we’re introduced to the land Corpse2of the living, you’ll notice a bleak and frigid palette of greys and blues (even flowers) with proper Victorian characters. Through the song According to Plan, we meet wealthy fish merchants William and Nell Van Dort (Paul Whitehouse and Tracey Ullman), and bankrupted aristocrats Finis and Maudeline Everglot (Albert Finney and Joanna Lumley). The families are hoping their children will bring them class and wealth, respectively, through an arranged marriage. The Van Dort’s son Victor (Johnny Depp) and the Everglot’s daughter Victoria (Emily Watson) are both a bit skeptical of the engagement.

“What if Victor and I don’t like each other?” Victoria asks.

“As if that has anything to do with marriage,” her mother scornfully retorts. “Now get your corset laced properly. I can hear you speak without gasping.”

Though their parents force the engagement, Victor and Victoria (a poke at the Blake Edwards comedy?) somehow fall in love and all seems well until Victor trips up on his vows during rehearsal. As he practices later in a nearby graveyard, Victor places the ring on what he believes to be a tree branch, but turns out to be a corpse’s finger. The now legally binding marriage brings Victor prematurely to the netherworld for a celebration. When he gets there, we see a colorful blend of reds, yellow, and greens as the deceased have fun and dance about. Through the jazzy tune Remains of the Day (by Burton regular Danny Elfman), we learn a greedy smooth talker killed his bride (Helena Bonham Carter) and stole her money. Since then, she has stayed in the graveyard awaiting his return.

Though we root for Victor to return corpse3home to his fiancé, the complicated love story asks us to empathize with the sweet and endearing corpse, who has a Peter Lorre-imitating maggot in her brain. While the well-to-do Lord Barkis (Richard E. Grant) is swooping in to steal Victoria, Victor must sneak back home, reclaim his bride, and somehow resolve the corpse situation. But why go back to the bleak living when, as one skeleton says, “people are dying to get down here?” (The look of skeletons and bright colors recalls the LucasArts video game Grim Fandango – and that’s a compliment of the highest order, because it may be little-known, but has an intense cult status.)

This whimsically funny horror flick is stop-motion animated in the style of The Nightmare Before Christmas – a style that would otherwise be deceased due to the rise of computer animation, if not for Burton. The film took a grueling 55 weeks to complete with 109,440 individually animated frames, reportedly forcing at least one animator to have nightmares about adjusting his own facial expressions. With clever writing, a fantastic soundtrack, and incredible visual beauty, this Oscar-nominated flick is almost worth dying for.

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