Corpse Bride (PG)

Directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
Written by John August, Pam Pettler and Caroline Thompson
On general release from October 21st 2005

Reviewed by Adam Ford

Corpse Bride started ‘life’ as a 16th century Jewish folk tale that was a response to a series of anti-Semitic murders; now it’s been taken on by Hollywood’s master of pop horror and been made into a stop-motion animation with a $40 million budget. Funny how these things turn out. Though it surely won’t match Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s box office success, it’s going to be just the thing for the spooky kids this All Hallows’ Eve.

‘Life’ is no fun in the land of the breathing. Bankrupt heiress Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson) is pacing around in her draughty and cobweb-festooned Victorian mansion, dreading her impending arranged marriage to industrialist’s son Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp). But when Victor fluffs his lines at the rehearsal, he beats a hasty retreat to some dismal, mist-enshrouded woods to practice on his own, just like anyone would in his situation. It is there that he commits his grave error and awakes a decomposing beauty.

As her name suggests, you wouldn’t exactly go round comparing the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter) to a summer’s day. For one thing, what’s left of her skin is blue. Anything else? Oh yeah, she has no pulse, no breath, and her right eye keeps falling out of its socket to reveal an incredibly chatty maggot (Enn Reitel). She spends her time chilling out with her dead friends in the colourful afterlife, awaiting a marriage to any ‘breather’ who happens to place a ring on her skeletal finger. When Victor finally does, things begin to get a bit weird.

Amidst all the inevitable fuss about Depp, Bonham Carter and the other famous actors (Albert Finney, Richard E. Grant, Christopher Lee) lending their disembodied voices, the real stars of the show won’t get enough of a mention. Altrincham-based Mackinnon and Saunders’s cutely macabre creations are the perfect vehicles for some very dark but very joyful humour, while long-term Burton collaborator Danny Elfman has concocted yet another wonderful musical score. By turns riotous and rueful, it presses all the buttons and drives the story along at just the right pace. The one bone I have to pick is that some poor character development means the ‘love’ aspect of the film is far from being dead romantic. However, this is a small quibble in the grand scheme of things, and Burton has crafted by far the most agreeable vision of life after death I have yet seen.

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