Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE (Tim Burton and Mike Johnson, 2005)

A groom practicing his vows unwittingly weds the dead in TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE. For the stop-motion animated film Johnny Depp provides the voice of Victor, a nervous husband-to-be who places a ring on what turns out to be the skeletal finger of a murdered woman. The corpse bride (Helena Bonham Carter) is sweet, but there’s the little matter of their very wrong engagement being contrary to the natural order.

CORPSE BRIDE’S protagonists are kindred spirits with the sensitive, pale, black-clad heroes who populate Burton’s body of work. He and co-director Mike Johnson have made the first film perfect for parents who were teenage goths and their angst-ridden children. After all, in CORPSE BRIDE the after life is where color is found. The world of the living is draped in black, white, and the bluish gray of a dead body. The ghastly elegant visual style and macabre humor are indebted to Edward Gorey’s illustrations.

For all its death fixations, CORPSE BRIDE is a film alive with inventiveness and devil-may-care attitude. Certainly it’s darker than the Burton-produced stop-motion classic THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, enough that it may mortify unsuspecting moms and dads, yet the creepiness should elicit gleeful shudders from children rather than bad dreams.

It’s all in good fun, something in evidence with jokes including a maggot that sounds like Peter Lorre, a secondhand shop that gives new meaning to such a place, and a gag with a skeleton whose reaction to a shocking revelation is a literal jaw-dropper. There’s also a funny, inadvertent warning of the perils of wedding a lass so thin that her ribcage is actually visible. (The corpse bride has select spots where what’s underneath her rotted flesh is exposed.)

CORPSE BRIDE continues a perfect marriage between Burton’s creativity and a technique rarely used for feature films.

Grade: B

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