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Corpse Bride (2005)
Till death do us part
Ostensibly codirected by Burton and Mike Johnson, this macabre fairy tale about a nervous bridegroom who accidentally betroths himself to a cadaver is clearly Burton's show all the way. Somewhere in some dour, gray, 19th-century land beyond the forest, sensitive Victor Van Dort (voice of Johnny Depp), son of nouveaux riches fishmongers (Tracy Ullman, Paul Whitehouse), is to marry into the aristocratic but broke Everglot family. Though his imperious future in-laws (Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney) are snobs, Victor's bride-to-be, Victoria (Emily Watson), is a lovely and artistic young woman, the soul mate Victor always hoped to find. But at their wedding rehearsal he repeatedly flubs his vows and runs off into the deep, dark wood in shame, trying to get the cursed words right until he finally recites them perfectly. He slips Victoria's ring onto what he thinks is a desiccated branch sticking out from under the snow. But it's actually the skeletal hand of Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), a bride murdered by her duplicitous lover, and she accepts Victor's proposal and whisks him off to the Land of the Dead.
Copyright © 2005 TV Guide Magazine Group, Inc.
In the surprisingly happening underworld, every day is the Dia de los Muertos, and the streets are bathed in washes of colored light and abuzz with cheerful skeletons who shake, rattle and roll their single eyeballs from socket to socket while half-rotted corpses carouse all night in establishments where the headwaiter is just that — a disembodied head. Even Victor's pallid cheeks take on a rosy glow. But while touched by Emily's sad story — delivered in the form of a bravura jumpin'-jive number by a bowler-hatted bag o' bones and crew — Victor wants only to return to Victoria. She, in turn, has been promised to a mysterious stranger, Count Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant), by her grasping parents. From the maggot (Enn Reitel) who roosts behind Emily's eyeball and feeds her wicked thoughts in doleful Peter Lorre tones to the scampering spiders who reweave Victor's clothes, this puppet-animated feature is cheerfully eerie and steeped in love for old horror films, unfolding in a weirdly canted mittel-Europe that's equal parts Hammer Victoriana and THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1919). But the real marvel is that beneath the ghoulish in-jokes and horror-geek allusions, there's a core of the same bittersweet truth that makes the best fairy tales resonate from one generation to the next: The film's final image is as sweetly magical as any live-action story of doomed love. — Maitland McDonagh for TV GUIDE
Rating: PG, some scenes objectionable for children
Running Time: 78 minutes
Rolling Stone Magazine says:
The Oscar for this year's Best Animated Feature Film belongs right here, even though the ravishing goth romance that Tim Burton has conjured up in "Corpse Bride" isn't strictly animated in the computer-generated sense. Burton and his co-director, Mike Johnson, use the stop-motion technique, which means taking puppets -- about a foot tall -- and painstakingly moving them half a millimeter at a time to achieve a subtlety of expression beyond the range of CGI. It takes a twelve-hour work day to produce even a second or two of usable footage. Burton used stop-motion in 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas, but the digital improvements at his disposal now really make it sing.
It took the sweat of multitudes to make "Corpse Bride," which wouldn't matter a damn if it lacked inspiration. It doesn't. Guided by a Russian folk tale about a murdered bride's love for a man who happens to be a live one, Burton roughed out a few sketches and gave character designer Carlos Grangel free rein. Screenwriters John August, Caroline Thompson and Pamela Pettler updated the story to Victorian England, and a gifted cast signed on to do the voices.
Heading the list is Burton regular Johnny Depp, who brings a touching tenderness to Victor Van Dort, a timid soul on his way to being a forty-year-old virgin until his parents (Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehouse) arrange to marry him off to shy Victoria (Emily Watson), the daughter of the titled but penniless Everglots (Joanna Lumley and Albert Finney). Victor is so nervous at the wedding rehearsal that the pastor (Christopher Lee) asks him to leave until he learns his vows.
Big mistake. In the forest, Victor practices by putting a ring on a tree that turns into a dead woman in a wedding gown who quickly accepts his proposal. What's Victor to do? He was getting to like Victoria, but Corpse Bride, voiced with sweet, witty mischief by Helena Bonham Carter (Burton's offscreen love), is the sexiest piece of rotting flesh ever.
It's in the Land of the Dead that the film hits its stride. The visuals are amazing. And if younger audiences freak out when a green maggot crawls out of the Bride's eye socket, screw 'em. Says the maggot to the Corpse Bride, "If I hadn't just been sitting there, I would have thought you'd lost your mind."
You get the picture -- it's warped and wonderfully effervescent. Ditto the songs by Danny Elfman, who sings the role of Bonejangles, the frontman for a skeleton jazz band at a swinging underworld club [he sang for Jack Skellington previously].
Best of all is the love story. Victor is attracted to both women. In the guise of a family film, Burton evokes a darkly erotic obsession that recalls Edgar Allan Poe and Hitchcock's Vertigo. It would be a test for any filmmaker, and Burton aces it.
See the movie theater trailers for Corpse Bride
Movie review © Copyright 2005 Rolling Stone
Broadcast schedule in 2006:
Corpse Bride is scheduled for the Family Channel in mid-October, 2006
Thu Oct 19 08:00P on Family
Sat Oct 21 06:00P on Family
Sun Oct 22 04:00P on Family
Previously, in 2005:
Tim Burton's Corpse Bride: HBO First Look, 15 minutes- (CC)
Sun Oct 2 8am & 6pm HBO Plus
Sat Oct 8 11:10A & 10:45P HBO Zone
Tue Oct 25 5pm & 5:50A HBO Family
Mon Oct 31 09:45P on HBO Comedy