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JOSEPH CROSS, BRIANA EVIGAN,
Tim Burton has a history of making movies with a bit of creepy fun - just look at his past works: BEETLEJUICE, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, Tim Burton's A NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, SLEEPY HOLLOW, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ( there's just something kind of creepy about that guy in the purple hat, after all), just to name a few. CORPSE BRIDE fits right in with this list of spooky, creepy, yet deviously fun tales.
The story itself is grounded in the typical fairytale-romance type formula of "boy meets girl." Young Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp: A NIGHTMARE ON ELMSTREET, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, FREDDY'S DEAD: THE FINAL NIGHTMARE, THE NINTH GATE, THE ASTRONAUT'S WIFE, SLEEPY HOLLOW, FROM HELL, PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, ONCE UPON A TIME IN MEXICO, SECRET WINDOW) faces an arranged marriage to the daughter of the Everglot family, Victoria (Emily Watson: RED DRAGON, EQUILIBRIUM). The two meet for the first time just before their wedding rehearsal - one day before the ceremony itself.
Nervous and shy, the couple seems well matched. But Victor is too nervous, and during the rehearsal keeps flubbing his vows. Chastised and berated by his soon-to-be in-laws and the gruff Pastor Galswells (Christopher Lee: HORROR HOTEL, THE WICKERMAN, SLEEPY HOLLOW, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, but you get the idea. the man has made or is making over 225 movies in the past seven decades!), he is sent outside to practice and master his wedding vows.
Finally, Victor manages to gather his courage and perfectly recite his vows - and in a fiendish twist accidentally winds up married to a dead corpse. In a wedding dress, no less. Victor's new Corpse bride (Helena Bonham Carter: FRANKENSTEIN , PLANET OF THE APES ) then takes the hapless groom to her home, and he finds himself in the land of the dead. Trapped in a nightmarish realm of dead beings, Victor tries to find a way to extricate himself from this "grave" mishap, and from his good-natured yet very dead bride.
The story has some predictable yet devilish twists, and the musical numbers woven into the story were delightful (although to tell the truth, there was one piece, sung by a spider and a maggot, which I personally didn't care for). Moments of wicked humor pop up unexpectedly at times, adding to the film's clever and ghoulish charm. After all, a maggot droning, "This is the voice of your conscience," from inside a dead woman's skull can't help but to make you chuckle, right?
Still, while I found the movie thoroughly enjoyable, I couldn't quite help but feel that the world of CORPSE BRIDE was a bit lacking in depth. In both THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS andBEETLEJUICE, the worlds seem bigger, fuller, more complete. The monsters and creatures of Nightmare are citizens of Halloweentown, which is just a part of a larger world of holiday towns. In BEETLEJUICE, the spirits and ghosts are a part of an entire community across the world. The ghosts even have a handbook to help newbies with the fine art of scaring off the living.
Unlike the community of BEETLEJUICE, the land of the dead in CORPSE BRIDE feels very isolated and insular - apart from, rather than a part of, a greater whole. We see the decaying bodies of the dead gathered in this little town, but there's never any explanation, and no indication that perhaps there's something more out there.
We're also never given any explanation as to why the dead of CORPSE BRIDE are bound to this existence. They don't seem to be unhappy spirits, from all the joyous celebration they show at "new arrivals." There's never any indication that there's somewhere else they could be, or should be. But that doesn't really fit well with the ending of the movie.
And it's not just the world of the dead that seems well, dead. Even the land of the living seems rather sterile and remote. In Victor's limited existence, there is the town, the wood, and the cemetery. Although there definitely is more to the living world, beyond the simple setting of town, wood, and cemetery, the one clear representative of that outside world isn't very pleasant at all.
I know that the feeling of depth was not really necessary to tell the tale itself, but sadly it did definitely cast a slight pall over my overall enjoyment of the film. Still, CORPSE BRIDE is definitely a good movie to watch.
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