Film Review: Corpse Bride not quite dead on

By Chris McGeachy

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride offers little surprise throughout the story of Victor van Dort and his socially-taboo marriage to the titular Corpse Bride, but manages to be entertaining anyway. The story is simple: Victor, voiced by Johnny Depp, finds himself staring death in the face when he accidentally betroths a corpse who subsequently comes to life and brings him to the underworld to celebrate. Unfortunately, this happens shortly after Victor has convinced himself the prearranged marriage his parents had been planning for him to Victoria Everglot wouldn’t be such a bad thing after all. Visually, Corpse Bride is very similar to Burton’s earlier work The Nightmare Before Christmas, however the film, as fun as it is, lacks much of the appeal and quirky nature of Nightmare needed to be recognized as the same type of classic.

Burton’s visual style has always been a twisted one, and the film opens with a butterfly traversing a dull Victorian townscape. Audiences are introduced to the Everglots and the van Dorts–two families about to be united through the matrimony of their daughter and son. Both families are accustomed to wealth, but through song and dance we learn the Everglots were born wealthy and stuck-up and the van Dorts came into wealth, thus explaining their lack of manners and civility towards one another. The only other real players in the film are a few stock servant characters, a minister and the villainous Count Bittern, all of whom are given little on screen time and merely serve to advance the story from one scene to another.

Fortunately for the film, a charming and clumsy love story between the repressed artist and the caged dove, namely Victor and Victoria, blossoms amongst the bickering of their elders and the stern rules of a stubborn priest. When Victor flees from the unbearable tension of the wedding rehearsal he finds himself hopelessly trying to remember his wedding vows in the middle of a dark forest. Here he accidentally awakens his cursed bride. Audiences are then brought to a much more colourful world, the land of the living impaired. The film plays on the old adage “the grass is always greener on the other side,” showing even in the land of the dead this colloquialism holds true. However, most of the remainder of the film is spent trying to return to the gloomy landscape of the land of the living.

In France you can legally marry a deceased individual so long as you go through the proper civil channels. Moreover, in 2004 a woman married the love of her life who was run down by a drunk driver two years prior. When cases like these exist, perhaps reality could have done a better job than fiction at capturing audiences with such a macabre tale. In the end, Corpse Bride’s story leaves little to the imagination. It’s unfortunate such a wonderful visual style could allow the plot to suffer from a fairly predictable outcome. Though worth the price of admission for the meticulously-crafted, aesthetically beautiful world and the visual delights within, Burton’s Corpse Bride shows us since The Nightmare Before Christmas we’ve learned how to make things look bigger and better with animation. The motions of these characters are as smooth as pudding, but the story is better left for the dead.


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