October 4, 2005 > Corpse Bride
Directed By Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
You wouldn't think that something as borderline sacrilegious as a man marrying a corpse would be an appropriate children's movie, but Tim Burton once again proves just how comfortable he is merging the fairy tale realm with a bit of grotesquery in Corpse Bride.
Corpse marks Burton's second film shot using intricate stop motion animation and detailed puppets made from stainless steel armatures (or "skeletons") covered in silicon skins. In both Corpse and Burton's previous, similarly-animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas, animators painstakingly move puppets one frame at a time, recording the film as a series of stills. When played back at full speed, the puppets appear to be moving independently. Coupling this technique with Burton's unique visual flare produces the wonderfully expressive and whimsically animated characters that his fans have come to expect.
The story begins when two Victorian families, the Van Dorts and the Everglots seek to mutually elevate their families' social status by marrying their two children, Victor Van Dort and Victoria Everglot. The two meet for the first time and fall immediately in love, but while the bumbling Victor (voiced by the uber-talented Johnny Depp) is practicing his wedding vows in the woods outside of town, he makes a mistake that threatens his marriage and the future of both families. While practicing, he unwittingly speaks his vows aloud to the wrong ears, and thinking he was practicing with the branch of a fallen tree, slips his wedding ring onto the finger of a corpse, thus resurrecting the Corpse Bride (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter). The Bride drags poor Victor into the land of the dead where, in contrast to the stiff Victorian characters above, things are considerably livelier. Victor must then find a way out of his unholy matrimony in time to marry Victoria, preferably without hurting the Corpse Bride's feelings.
While Corpse might not sound like a children's film, it is rated PG, and is considerably less dark than The Nightmare Before Christmas. With a run time of only 76 minutes, it's plenty capable of holding the attention of the young ones while providing enough of its amazing visualizations to keep older viewers entertained. Slender characters float in mesmerizing choreographed movements across the screen to the music of Burton's long-time collaborator Danny Elfman. This melancholic ballet is saved from absolute morbidity by the film's humorous, genuine main characters and the upbeat musical numbers. Like most of Burton's films, Corpse Bride is a fairy tale shrouded in dusty old curtains and a few cobwebs. It might feel a little cold at first, but sooner or later you warm up to it and realize that it's really just a sweet story - albeit with dead people - about true love.