by Laura Kyle
Corpse Bride doesn’t boast half the charm of Nightmare Before Christmas, but it’s got doubly awesome visuals and is easily worth your eight bucks at the local cinema.Burton’s "Land of the Living" is a drab world where shades of gray seldom give way to brighter colors and inhabitants are almost all excessively ugly, with fat, pointed chins, jagged angles, and nasty personalities to boot.
"Not as good as Nightmare Before Christmas, but still striking."
His underworld, ironically, features burning yellows and oranges and is crowded with lively, drunken skeletons and is also home to the beautiful, though incidentally dead, Corpse Bride (voiced by Helana Bonham Carter), with sunken in eyeballs that occasionally pop out. She is awakened when the living Victor (Johnny Depp), betrothed to an equally alive Victoria (Emily Watson), plants a ring on her finger and accidentally asks her to marry him instead.
Thus, an unusual love triangle is set in stop motion.
The absurdly cartoonish clay creations and wonderfully exaggerated, sinister backdrops are precisely what moviegoers expect from Burton’s latest animated effort (although this is really his first try at “directing” a full-length motion picture in this genre), and they'll get it in spades. Corpse Bride is a delight to the eyes and in a decade of flashy, smooth digital effects, it’s one of the most refreshing films in recent memory because it’s something we don’t often see.
Animation like this requires painstaking and tedious physical labor and the final product oozes with such personal, artistic creativity. Like a painting, a sculpture, or an early Disney animated feature, there’s a certain quality here that moviegoers crave – they just don't react the same way to a light saber fight in Star Wars. Somebody literally crafted these characters with their bare hands. Indeed, Corpse Bride has an inherently special way of capturing the imagination of its audience.
There are digital flourishes, of course, but they blend in flawlessly with the claymation – in fact, computerized special effects are a phenomenal match with already, in a sense, animated visuals. The imagery in Corpse Bride is simply stunning, superior to that in the Nightmare Before Christmas (which is still a gorgeous, visual masterpiece on its own).
All the ingredients that were mixed in together so well in Nightmare, are here. You’ve got Victor, who’s pale and remarkably skinny, with a pet skeleton dog (Jack!) and the Corpse Bride, his pining admirer, has limbs that frequently depart from her body (Sally). Victor’s got a touch of Depp’s other Burton character, Edward Scissor-Hands, too.
The acting from Burton’s regulars is spot-on – especially Depp, whose crackly, wimpy voice, as the apologetic, melancholy Victor, is only recognizable because we’re listening out for it.
And yet, there’s something so frustratingly forgettable about these characters and this story. Clever puns are all over the place, but they hardly make up for the mostly dull, unsurprising writing.
Also, I’m sad to report that Corpse Bride’s occasional song is hardly memorable or inspired; the music merely serves to classify the film as a musical. It’s even disappointing. One anticipates a more generous share of talent from composer Danny Elfman. Elfman’s persistent instrumental score is marginally better, though it’s a bit recycled.
But shit, how can you rag on a filmmaker like Tim Burton, who’s evidently still at the top of his game and clearly loves making movies? He’s a master of the art form and his talents are widely on display in Corpse Bride, which is no loser of a film, by any means.Weak plot aside, Corpse Bride is a real treat, especially if you make a bit of an effort to dig up the more meaningful comments about society.
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originally posted: 09/25/05 00:15:52