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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 37.1%
Just Average: 14.52%
Pretty Crappy: 6.45%
Sucks: 0.81%

12 reviews, 52 user ratings

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Corpse Bride
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by Jay Seaver

"I'm not so sure that death is as cool as Burton thinks it is."
4 stars

I like animated films to have a specific aesthetic, and use abstraction and worlds designed from scratch to make every frame an expression of some thought rather than just an attempt to replicate the real world. And there's no doubt "Corpse Bride" does that, with its big heads and tiny limbs, and different color schemes. If anything, it perhaps suffers from knowing this a little too well.

Corpse Bride is the story of Victor van Dort (voice of Johnny Depp), whose nouveau riche parents have arranged a marriage to the daughter of the local nobility. It's a sound transaction, one which will elevate the van Dorts' profile and the Everglots' liquidity, and that Victor and Victoria Everglot (voice of Emily Watson) are actually as well-matched as their names is an unexpected bonus. However, when Victor drops the ring during a break from the wedding rehearsal, a peculiar series of events leaves him bound to Emily (voice of Helena Bonham Carter), a young woman murdered on her wedding night who pulls Victor over to the "other side".

One of the things a viewer can't help but be struck by is how the world of the living is almost entirely dark and gray, while the world of the dead is full of color - indeed, I'm almost sure that separate maquettes were used for Victor above ground and Victor below. It's the sort of design choice that initially seems clever, but later just seems contrarian: If life is so bland and the afterlife is so much fun, and everyone's eventually going to die anyway, why is young Victor trying to get back, anyway? Even as we're given reasons later, the color palette seems to be subtly reinforcing the idea that Victor should just let things be. Co-director Tim Burton and company also mis-step, I think, by having the voice of the maggot living in Emily's head be an obvious Peter Lorre imitation; they've taken created this distinctive, imaginary world, and then they stick a single piece of twentieth century pop culture in the middle (for that matter, the material used to realize the maggot character seems much more clay-like than the other plastic models).

A film is not in bad shape if those are its biggest problems. Corpse Bride strikes a certain amount of gold with its three main characters, presenting us with a love triangle where we legitimately like all three "points". Victor is shy and wont to get tongue-tied, but is unexpectedly resourceful when the world around him suddenly goes insane. Victoria at first appears to be Victor's analogue, but she isn't actually shy and withdrawn; she just hasn't met anyone before Victor who displayed any tolerance for her being active and speaking her mind. And while Emily could easily be played as a villainess or a fool, her desire - her need, really - to be loved wins the audience over. Ms. Carter's vocal performance is a big part of that, as flighty and whimsical as a teenager but occasionally showing the bitterness of, well, someone murdered on what should have been the happiest night of her life.

Color scheme aside, this film is mighty impressive visually, with all the characters having faces that are remarkably expressive for being so stylized. Parents may grumble at some of the ickiness to the character designs in the land of the dead - particularly Emily, who has a maggot living in her body and whose skin has rotted away in spots allowing us to see bone underneath - but kids will love it, and that we can see bones inside actually makes these characters seem more real; they're not just hollow, manipulated shells. Directors Burton and Mike Johnson often place their characters in large spaces, though they seldom feel empty. They generally chart a steady course between making the film too jokey and having it be overly somber or melodramatic.

There are songs. They're written by Burton regular Danny Elfman, who also wrote the score, and they're for the most part okay. They don't bring the movie to a screeching halt, but they're not particularly memorable, either. The only real problem is with "Remains of the Day", which tells Emily's story but is a little too long and breaks period in a way the other songs on the soundtrack don't. It's a good song, but doesn't quite fit the tone of the movie.

"Corpse Bride" is impressive, no doubt about it. It suffers a bit in comparison to the stop-motion masterpieces Burton made with Harry Selick, but has plenty of virtues of its own, especially when the focus is on the three characters in the central love triangle.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12831&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/25/05 13:04:22
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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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