Tim Burton's
Corpse Bride

Dir: Mike Johnson + Tim Burton
Star: (voice) Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Emily Watson, Richard E. Grant

It's hard to say exactly why this is a lot less effective than Nightmare. Perhaps it's that the characters are human, only twisted and skewed so much it becomes hard to empathise with them. Hero Victor (Depp) is such a total milquetoast compared to Jack Skellington, and even Danny Elfman's songs seem like they were tossed off over a wet weekend. Not that the result is worthless: the stop-motion animation remains a refreshing change from the all-devouring CGI monster - though it's so slick here, they might as well have used computers. The story concerns Victor, slated to marry Victoria (Watson), in an arranged marriage that actually might work. However, a nervous Victor botches his rehearasl vows, and wanders off to the nearby woods to practice them.

This leads to him marrying Emily (Bonham-Carter), a bride who died before making it to the altar, now inhabiting the world of the dead - and she ain't giving up her man without a battle. Sadly, this does not result in a catfight between Emily and Victoria, and perhaps its this lack of conflict which is key. The three lead characters like each other too much; sure, there's a bit of bridal tension, but we're not talking Kill Bill here. It takes the artificial contrivance of a fourth, Barkis Bittern (Grant), barely present before the final third, to inject some drama and drive into proceedings. [It's also true to say the basic theme - Necrophilia Lite - is somewhat at odds with the PG approach.] The main joy beyond the visual style, is listening to a parade of Great British Actors, who are uniformly excellent. Otherwise, I can't help thinking that the overall effect might have been substantially greater if the above-ground portions, at least, had been done in live-action.

May 2006

Until death...
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