Corpse Bride Movie Review

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Comparisons between Tim Burton's stop-motion endeavors The Nightmare Before Christmas (which he co-wrote) and Corpse Bride (which he co-directed) are inevitable and unfair. The former will always be the Neil Armstrong of this particular animation genre, the first feature-length example of its kind that injects a challenging medium with creativity and heart.

Bride, now the Buzz Aldrin of Burton's stop-motion movies, strains under the effort to duplicate Nightmare's success, but it simply lacks that new-car smell. While still inventive in parts, it's nowhere near as innovative. Burton and collaborator Mike Johnson are content to walk an established path where the superior Nightmare feverishly broke hallowed ground.

The divide that separates the projects runs deeper than that, though. Nightmare, simply put, is a much better movie that benefits from an unusual and imaginative story, captivating characters blessed with depth, and a memorable soundtrack showcasing Danny Elfman's macabre sense of humor.

Bride takes us on a safe trip back to Burton's familiar animated universe populated by bulbous, bell-shaped bodies propped on brittle twigs for legs. In this drab corner of the globe, Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) awaits details on his arranged marriage to Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson), a symbolic gesture that stands to benefit both families financially. Though he connects with his bride-to-be, Victor can't master his vows. His temporary uncertainty plunges our tormented hero into a foreboding forest where he accidentally proposes to a skeleton and unleashes the spirit of the dormant Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter).

Though Burton adopts the same visual theme, his animation techniques have improved. Character movements are fluid, and the color scheme ironically bursts to life when Victor follows his new bride back to the land of the dead. The animation's icy blues harken back to Burton's Batman efforts, particularly the Penguin's lair from Batman Returns. The film pays tribute to its predecessors, stenciling "Harryhausen" on the side of a piano and crafting Peter Lorre's likeness on a worm that lives in the Bride's skull. The story holds Grimm inspirations, and the dark humor hints at best of Nightmare without ever approaching its level of uniqueness.

We keep thinking, hoping, and praying that Bride will aim higher, but it never happens. The humor, from start to finish, overdoses on groan-worthy puns. Only two scenes stand out for their energetic choreography and imaginative conjuring, and both involve Burton's creatures from beyond the grave. Between these all-too-brief excursions, three screenwriters - John August, Pamela Pettler and Caroline Thompson - stumble through a routine marital-miscommunication storyline that, without clay, could serve as a cliché fest for the likes of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Runaway Corpse Bride, anyone?

Aka Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.

Why's it so quiet in here?

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Corpse Bride Rating

" OK "

Rating: PG, 2005


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