Happy Halloween

This one I recommend.

This one’s worth checking out.

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter star in Corpse Bride.

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter star in Corpse Bride.

Charmingly gothic; pretty

Charmingly gothic; pretty

I like Tim Burton best when he makes stop-motion. Animation in general is a great and rewarding medium for someone whose imagination is so creatively macabre and wicked as that of Burton and even though some might consider his Corpse Bride to be a bit too stylistically similar to The Nightmare Before Christmas, I still say it’s an entertaining film.

I will say, however, that it feels a bit short. Watching it almost feels more like watching an episode of a Halloween-themed TV series rather than a full length film. This isn’t necessarily a complain on my part, as I still had a good time watching it. It’s more of a peculiar observation I made. But let’s take a look at the story.

Johnny Depp stars as the shy and soft-spoken Victor Van Dort, who has been pushed into marrying a young, wealthy girl named Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson) by his parents (Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehouse), hoping this will help raise their social class. Together they travel to the Everglot mansion where the wedding is to be held. Feeling uncertain as to whether or not he wants to go through with this marriage and being constantly resented by his future in-laws (Joanna Lumley and Albert Finney), Victor makes a run for it during the not very successful wedding rehearsals. The pastor in the scene is voiced by Christopher Lee so I’d be afraid too.

Having messed up the recital of his vows, he recites them by himself one time after retreating into the forest, but someone is still listening to it. A zombie-like woman appears and interprets this scenario as Victor saying his vows to her, thus making him her husband. The woman, Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), brings a confused and frightened Victor with her to the Land of The Dead, their new home. This colorful underworld is inhabited by all sorts of dead/undead creatures. There’s a sagacious, elderly skeleton voiced by Michael Gough, a talking spider voiced by Jane Horrocks, corpses voiced by the likes of Deep Roy and Danny Elfman (who, of course, also made the music) and a sarcastic maggot voiced by Enn Reitel doing his best impression of horror film icon Peter Lorre.

Victor even gets his dead dog back. How morbidly sweet.

Compared to the grey and depressing real world, the Land of The Dead is colorful and pretty.

Compared to the grey and depressing real world, the Land of The Dead is colorful and bouncy.

While Victor gets himself acquainted with the underworld creatures, a murderous charmer voiced by Richard E. Grant tries to steal Victoria away from him. Will Victor let this happen and spend the rest of his life (and death) with Emily the corpse bride, or will he return to our world and set things right? Well, the latter, probably, because a children’s film shouldn’t very well have itself a depressing an ending, now should it?

The thing about Corpse Bride is that it really isn’t that morbid in its spookiness. Although sometimes dark and atmospheric, it’s actually a fairly cartoony and sweet story for the most part, especially once we enter the Land of The Dead and meet those who roam there. This is, of course, meant to be a stark contrast to the Land of The Living which, in this movie, looks very grey and unhappy. I thought both worlds looked lovely in their own right but that’s beside the point. What I’m saying is that while Corpse Bride may not be as dark as I had hoped, it still made for a delightful watch.

The voice acting is lovely, as are the songs. Yes, Corpse Bride is in fact a musical and with Danny Elfman in charge of both the composing and the writing of the lyrics, there isn’t much to complain about. Also, the animation, as per usual with Tim Burton’s stop-motion work, is beautiful to look at. There are some really creative and hilarious designs in this film, both amongst the dead characters and the living ones. For example, when Albert Finney’s character came on screen, I started laughing pretty much instantly. The residents of the underworld are good-looking too, although one can make the argument that there could have been even more variety in what manner of creatures there were down there.

I’m going to give Corpse Bride a 4/5, but that’s not really me saying there’s anything wrong with it that prevents me from going higher. Heck, this might, by a certain definition, be a perfect film in how it tells you a story, treats you with some pretty images and then ends without making any noteworthy errors. If there was something more extraordinary or mind-blowing about it, though, I would most likely have given it a 5/5. Even then, it is what it is and gives you a good time without any annoyances that you’ll remember afterwards.

3/5 whatever

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