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12 reviews, 52 user ratings

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Corpse Bride
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by Tom Ciorciari

"An early Halloween treat from Tim Burton & co."
5 stars

About twenty minutes into Tim Burton’s delightful new stop-motion animated feature, “Corpse Bride”, we are introduced to Maggot, a green inch wormy-looking little critter with the hangdog features and wheezy Germanic cadences of 40s and 50s classic film psycho Peter Lorre. Did I mention that he makes his first appearance by popping out the title character’s eyeball and crawling out of the socket? or that, despite this and other equally grim goings-on, this is a family film? Of course, this is a family film as viewed through the slightly twisted and shadowy prism of director Tim Burton’s imagination.

While the infamous “studio system” of old, in which writers, directors and actors were merely hired hands whose careers were controlled almost in toto by the studio heads, has been defunct for going on fifty years, there remains in its place a clubby system of commerce over art. And, much like the fabled days of old, outsiders and upstarts are not particularly welcome – unless, of course, they can put a cool $100 mil in the studio coffers. For a film maker like Tim Burton this must be akin to dropping an agoraphobic in the middle of a shopping mall on the day after Thanksgiving. Burton’s best works have been inarguably his most personal: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Films populated by misfits and beautiful freaks, to whom the director obviously feels akin. Despite this singularly peculiar pedigree these films have done relatively well at the box office and become bona fide cult classics on home video and dvd. And like many great directors whose style and vision is unique Burton has, rather than be absorbed into the mainstream, spawned a genré unto himself. And it is only when Burton has attempted to live up to certain commercial expectations (and always in the wake of some surprise box office success) that he has stumbled (Mars Attack!, Big Fish) or, on at least one notable occasion, fallen terribly, horribly flat on his face (Planet Of The Apes). With his current film, officially titled Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (as if anyone else could have made this film!), Burton has burrowed into his own dark imagination once again and, as he has so often before, created something wonderfully unlike anything else to be found in the multiplexes this year, even his own candy-colored fever dream Charlie And The Chocolate Factory.

Co-directing with Mike Johnston, who worked as an animator on his two previous stop-motion films, Nightmare and James And The Giant Peach (and, yes, Burton only produced James..., but it couldn’t feel or look more like a Burton film had he actually helmed it), Burton gives us the tale of Victor Van Dort (voiced by longtime co-conspirator Johnny Depp) whose looming arranged marriage to Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson) is causing him considerable anxiety. Additional pressure is on Victor from both his parents and Victoria’s, as both secretly believe this union will save them financially. Fleeing the wedding rehearsal for the solitude of the deep, dark forest, Victor practices his vows only to find himself accidentally wed to the recently deceased Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), the Corpse Bride, risen from her shallow grave. Spirited away (no pun intended) to the netherworld where dead things walk and talk and even sing a few numbers – one can easily imagine the hellish waiting room from Burton’s Beetlejuice tucked away in one of the corner shops – Victor is understandably frazzled. Will this offbeat triangle be resolved? Will the families’ misfortunes be united? And what of the mysterious Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant)? This is a fairy tale, after all, so it is not so much the twists and turns of the tale, but rather the telling itself that matters here. And Burton and Johnston, along with screenwriters John August, Pamela Pettler and Caroline Thompson, do a marvelous job of weaving a modern Halloween classic.

In this particular vision it is the world of the dead that is filled with crisp, autumnal color while the everyday world is painted in drab black and white tones (not unlike Michael Powell’s classic Stairway To Heaven [1946]). And if you think the rotting corpses that Emily coexists with are creepy just get a load of the Van Dorts and the Everglots. Unlike the characters in his previous stop-animation projects Burton here, for the first time, gives these features that are a distinct combination of classic Disney (Burton spent his early years as a Disney animator) and the Rankin-Bass puppet classics of the 60s and 70s (particularly their 1967 feature Mad Monster Party, whose Dr. Jekyll bears a strong resemblance to the villainous Bittern). The physical terrain is also instantly recognizable as Burtonesque, as well. Long-limbed branches curl from black trees, impossibly gothic Victorian manses that reach into the night skies, streets lit orange with gaslight – all of which scream of the Universal and Hammer horror films of Burton’s childhood – lovingly fill each frame.

Assembling members of a growing stock company Burton’s cast is flawless: Depp, Bonham Carter (Planet..., Big Fish, Charlie..., and current Burton gal pal), Albert Finney (Big Fish), Hammer Dracula Christopher Lee (Sleepy Hollow, Charlie...), Joanna Lumley (James..., and newcomers Emily Watson and Tracey Ullman. It is to their collective credit that, with the sole exception of sudden mega-star Depp whose Victor bears more than a passing resemblance to the actor, none of the performers, each of whom has a wonderfully distinctive voice, is recognizable in their characterizations, the opposite effect of which (paging Robin Williams) can be awfully distracting.

If, in the end, Corpse Bride is not quite as warmhearted as Nightmare Before Christmas that is more a testament to Nightmare’s brilliance than a weakness of Corpse. And I would be hard pressed to imagine another film this year with as loving and joyous a conclusion.

With “Corpse Bride” Tim Burton has once again proven that he is a film maker best left to his own fertile imagination as well as his own devices. Truly an instant classic, “Corpse Bride” is a film that I suspect will rear its sweetly misshapen head for many a Halloween to come.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12831&reviewer=384
originally posted: 10/03/05 20:10:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2005 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/06/12 Mayfield Love this movie. Great for adults and children. 5 stars
5/06/11 brian Burton/Depp/Elfman triumph again! 5 stars
4/28/09 Stephen Fantastic movie, verry macarbe for a young odiance, but can be enjoyed by all 5 stars
2/13/09 lola after this movie i am in love with emily. 5 stars
1/11/09 Anonymous. such a sweet story :] 4 stars
8/27/08 Shaun Wallner Well Made! 5 stars
1/04/08 Pamela White very cute in a dark way 4 stars
6/12/07 Dark Enchantress i loved it! 5 stars
5/12/07 ala burgeia i love it 5 stars
5/02/07 alkdjfh totally wicked awesome 5 stars
2/23/07 Clayton Excellent character development, emotional implications, accentuate soundtrack adds to mood 5 stars
2/03/07 Vip Ebriega Small fry will enjoy it better than adults. 3 stars
1/27/07 mets1986 Just as good as Nightmare.... 5 stars
1/03/07 Alex Thorne didnt like NBC, and found this quite dull. doesnt live up to the hype 2 stars
11/17/06 BoyInTheDesignerBubble Brilliant movie, but boring soundtrack. Elfman needs to write stronger songs. 5 stars
10/08/06 isis coooooooooool!!!!!! 5 stars
8/16/06 Gemma Northcott I really like this film and i would watch it over and over. 5 stars
8/01/06 C. Davis Good, but I need another watch to catch what is so special 4 stars
7/17/06 David Cohen See Burton, you can still make a good movie if you try 5 stars
6/29/06 MP Bartley Grisly, spooky fun with with and heart. 4 stars
6/21/06 Joanie how scary 1 stars
5/27/06 AD I love this movie! Great job Tim Burton! 5 stars
3/27/06 Brian Meyer Don't compare to "nightmare" This movie stands firmly alone. Music wasn't great. 4 stars
3/11/06 C Vega good fairy tale movie but no way near as good as "nightmare" 4 stars
3/03/06 lilian best ever 5 stars
3/02/06 Doremimi Nice visually, but I was bored to DEATH! 3 stars
2/20/06 Annie G If you want to "Nightmare.." again, I'd recommend rewatching it instead. 3 stars
2/20/06 Jim Not sure what all the fuss was about 3 stars
2/04/06 HL Why even reference it to TNBC..This is incredible regardless of comparison! 5 stars
1/09/06 Jack Farnsworth Haven't seen it 5 stars
1/08/06 Quigley this movie was a work of directoral and visual genius. way to go, tim burton! oscars? 5 stars
12/23/05 Michele strange but cute 3 stars
12/22/05 Brian Johnson 2nd place to Nightmare, but still fun 4 stars
12/10/05 chris wonderful 5 stars
12/04/05 Hernan loved the music and character design 4 stars
11/07/05 malcolm drab colors were kinda boring. we've seen this style before. just a longcartoon. 3 stars
11/01/05 Jacqueline Ward-Isaac Brilliant film! Tim Burton lives up to The Nightmare Before Christmas! It was very amusing! 5 stars
10/26/05 Deadwiz Not as good as TNBC, but it will do... 4 stars
10/24/05 Adam The visuals are great, but the plot is predictable; the ending was lacking..felt unfinished 3 stars
10/21/05 Tina Totally enjoyed it - beautiful to watch and fun. 5 stars
10/15/05 Quigley why isn't anyone stating the obvious? this film is a visual, geniusly done masterpiece 5 stars
10/09/05 LOLO Outstanding and truly lovely film. Maybe not as good as NBC but has its own charm! 5 stars
10/04/05 Sam Really great, probably one to see again and again. But never as good as NmBC! 5 stars
10/04/05 drfardook Visually... its very good. Plot is ok, but the characters motivations fall flat. 3 stars
10/03/05 Meryl Stupid, half-finished, musically deficient dreck. What happened, Tim? What happened? 2 stars
10/02/05 Bee We've wanted to see this film since the previews came out, months ago. Today, on a 'dark a 5 stars
10/02/05 watson387 Excellent! 5 stars
9/29/05 E. Northam Burton charmingly revisits eerie themes, bizarre vistas & transgressive characters. 3 stars
9/26/05 KingNeutron Nicely animated, but the 2 major plot decisions don't make sense. 3 stars
9/23/05 Titus Glad I saw it, but once was plenty. Kinda forced and dry. Not Burton's best. 3 stars
9/15/05 mike b just saw a screening; not as much music as the nightmare before xmas flick, but very good! 4 stars
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  16-Sep-2005 (PG)
  DVD: 31-Jan-2006



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