Saturday, February 25, 2006


Corpse BrideJohnny Depp Directed by Tim Burton
Starring Johnny Depp (Voice)
Reviewed by Byron Merritt


Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) is the son of wealthy fishmongers and he’s had an arranged marriage set up for him. His wife to be, Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson) is the daughter of Victorian-style royalty who are having financial difficulties. Marrying Victoria off is seen solely as a "plan (score music here)" to pull her parents out of their money-rut.

All seems to be going well until Victor fouls up his vows during the wedding rehearsal and runs off into the nearby forest. He continues to practice the vows as he stumbles through the trees, finally getting the words right and then ceremoniously placing the ring on a nearby twig least that’s what he thought it was. The twig turns out to be the dead finger of the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter). She and Victor are now husband and wife, and she emerges from the grave to tell him so. Running away from her and plowing into a tree, Victor falls unconscious, only to awaken in the underworld of the dead.

Confusion reigns as Victor tries to tell the Corpse Bride that they cannot be married ...because he is still alive and she is dead. Well, there certainly is an easy way to fix that. But what of his living bride-to-be, Victoria? How will she take the news?

The Corpse Bride has a lot going for it, but also a few issues. The positives far outweigh the negatives, however. Most enjoyable (from my perspective) were the miniatures and the way the "claymation" flowed. The clay characters were smooth and outlandishly featured; Victoria’s mother (Joanna Lumley) has hair that looks like two large breasts pinned high above her head, the Corpse Bride is disturbingly sexy, and the pastor (a perfect Christopher Lee) appears as an imposing religious zealot.

Similar to WALLACE AND GROMIT IN THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT, the claymation is smooth and even. Although Wallace and Gromit has a more children’s feel to it, Corpse Bride makes no such claim. Necrophilia, frightening death sequences, bodily decay, and several other possibly unappetizing ideas pop-up during the film. But they are usually infused with sprinklings of comedy, which made these items less morbid.

The biggest "hole" in the movie was its script. Clocking in at just 75 minutes, there’s very little time to get acquainted with the characters and even less time spent on making sense of the movie’s ending (I’ll only comment that when the Corpse Bride said, "You have set me free." I said, "Huh?").

But the claymation, beautifully crafted caricatures, and mini-sets can’t be denied. Nor can most of the musical numbers that added a certain garish quality to it (although some of the songs seemed forced to me, while several others were spot-on).

I wouldn’t let a child under 12 years old watch it, though. Adults will laugh at the humor thrown down at death’s door, but the youngsters might not get it.


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