Creepy animation stays clever in Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’
Take something creepy and gruesome like maggots, disembodied heads, severed eye balls and corpses, transform them into puppets, and they’re slightly less disturbing for those of us who don’t like that sort of thing. For those who do like that sort of thing, you’ll probably feel you’re in the midst of genius when you see Tim Burton’s “Corpse Bride.”I have to admit, I cringed more than laughed every time the corpse bride (voice of Helena Bonham Carter) would get upset enough for her eyeball to pop out of her head and the maggot that served as her voice of conscience (voice of Enn Reitel) would appear with some words of wisdom. In all fairness, though, this is not a bad Halloween movie.Victor Van Dort (voice of Johnny Depp) is the clumsy, awkward son of a fishing merchant who has somehow found himself positioned to marry Victoria (voice of Emily Watson), the sheltered but beautiful (in Tim Burton’s gothic, spindle-legged puppet sense of the word) member of the aristocratic Everglot family.
In true gothic form, both Victor and Victoria have led equally miserable lives in their respective socio-economic upbringings. Victor is forever being reprimanded and made to feel worthless by his money-grubbing, social ladder-climbing parents, and Victoria has grown up without the freedom to play a piano, wear non-restrictive clothing, enter or exit a room without a chaperone. Save Victor and Victoria, every single man, woman, child, priest or horse who lives in the little 19th-century English village where the story takes place is pale and mean-spirited. It’s a fantastically dark and dismal setting, perfect for the hideous appearance of the corpse bride from her grave.Some small children may require counseling after this scene. Yes, I know it’s just a cartoon, but the sudden appearance of a glowing, mangy-haired, wide-eyed woman who is half skeleton and half decayed corpse was enough to make me squirm a little bit. At the same time, I had to appreciate the ingenuity of the animation, which is a delightful continuation of style from the characters Burton introduced in “A Nightmare Before Christmas.”The screenplay was written by John August (who worked with Burton on “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”) and Pamela Pettler, but the story and humor is reminiscent of 1988’s “Beetlejuice,” a story of a crazy dead guy (Michael Keaton) who is summoned from the grave by a dead couple (Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis), who want to scare a family out of their house.
Danny Elfman’s musical numbers in “Corpse Bride” don’t live up to the cleverness of his work in “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” but their are some nice touches, such as a Ray Charles spoof and a group of skeletons enacting “The Skeleton Dance,” a famed and classic piece of animation hailing from 1929 (www.imdb.com).Once you become immune to the corpse bride’s netherworld friends who walk around displaying their entrails, having been dissected or gauged, the character studies are the most intriguing aspect of the film. The irony of the dual-world setup is that everyone in the dead world is kind and welcoming and everyone in the world of the living is cold and nasty. One can sympathize with the any of the three characters who find themselves living among the warm and creepy or among the icy yet breathing. Victor, attached to two brides, has an endearing ability to negotiate. Victoria, helpless and trapped in her mansion, sees a flicker of light in her cold, rich world; and the corpse bride … well, her best friend is a maggot. With the exception of small children who happened to be amused by ghosts and skeletons, “Corpse Bride” is a fun, festive film for animation-loving adults.
Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or email@example.com. Vail, Colorado
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