Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Corpse Bride Is A Nice Little Film

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is a beautifully animated film with an unusual love story at its center. If you don't go into this film expecting another The Nightmare Before Christmas, you will find a nice little film with great voice work that is probably more suitable for older audiences than little kids.

Johnny Depp stars as the voice of Victor Van Dort, the quiet son of wealthy fishmongers William and Nell Van Dort (voices of Paul Whitehouse and Tracey Ullman). He has been arranged to get married to Victoria Everglot (voice of Emily Watson), the daughter of poor aristocrats Finnis and Maudeline Everglot (voices of Albert Finney and Jane Horrocks). The only thing her parents care about is money and that is the sole reason why they have agreed to marry their daughter off to the "nouveau riche." Victor and Victoria hit it off quite nicely when they meet, but Victor is so shy that he has a lot of trouble going through the vows during the wedding rehearsal, much to the chagrin of Pastor Galswells (voice of Christopher Lee). After the rehearsal, Victor goes into the woods to practice his vows and puts the wedding ring on what he thinks is a tree branch. It's actually the hand of the Corpse Bride (voice of Helena Bonham Carter) and when Victor comes to after getting knocked out, he finds himself in the land of the dead and married to the bride (whose name is actually Emily). While Victor is gone, a man named Lord Barkis (voice of Richard E. Lee) sneaks his way into the picture.

Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, this film is created with stop-motion animation. The technology has definitely stepped up in the years between the films and it looks great. I loved the art direction, especially the use of grays for the real world and lots of color for the Land of The Dead. The character designs are very nice and show the characters' personalities very well. For example, Victoria's father has a permanent scowl and a scene where he attempts to smile draws a laugh.

Tim Burton's musical kindred spirit, Danny Elfman, composed the songs and score for the film. Elfman's work in this film is very good but not of the caliber we expect from him and Burton. The songs aren't really all that memorable but they serve their purpose. The same can be said of the score which is actually quite nice but not nearly as memorable as his other work.

The film's story is more serious than The Nightmare Before Christmas. It plays primarily like a romantic drama with occasional bursts of humor. While The Nightmare Before Christmas seemed downright jubilant at times, this film is pretty understated and has a relatively slow pace despite its very short running time. I really liked the three main characters of the film, especially the Corpse Bride. This movie resists making her evil and crazy and instead makes her a character we like. It heightens the emotional impact of the later portions of the film as we wonder who Victor will ultimately end up with.

Corpse Bride isn't a film that kids will like as much as The Nightmare Before Christmas, though they will probably enjoy the colorful supporting characters from the Land of The Dead and the song sung by Bonejangles (voice of Danny Elfman). However, I think it's a very good film for older kids/teens and adults. Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is a film that deals with themes rarely seen in animation in a way that is dramatic, occasionally funny, and very sweet.

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