With the rise of advanced computer-generated movies like “The Incredibles” and “Finding Nemo,” it is a rarity to find a movie like “Corpse Bride” out in theaters.
Tim Burton reintroduced the use of stop-motion animation in his musical “The Nightmare Before Christmas” in 1993. Since then, few have tread into the painstaking world of stop-motion animation.
For those who don’t know, stop-motion animation is accomplished by moving an object very slowly, taking one picture for every small movement it makes. For instance, in order to move the character’s eyes from left to right, it is necessary to move the pupils little by little, taking one picture for every position across the eye. It takes 12-24 pictures to create one second of action. Despite its tedious nature, Burton brought stop-motion animation back with “Corpse Bride,” another ghoulish musical.
Set in a 19th century European village, our story begins with a timid Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp), who is engaged to the equally timid Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson). During the wedding rehearsal, poor Victor can’t recite his vows correctly. With a fierce recommendation from Pastor Galswells (Christopher Lee), Victor goes into the forest to practice for his big day.
While in the forest, Victor performs his vows flawlessly. He even practices placing the ring on a hand-like root sticking out of the ground. At least, that is what he thought it was.
But there’s been a grave misunderstanding. Instead of marrying his true love, Victoria, Victor married the corpse bride.
The corpse bride, Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), is a haunting beauty with a tragic past. On the day of her wedding, she was robbed and murdered. With her last thoughts, she made a vow to stay in that spot until a man had married her.
Emily takes her new husband from the drab black-and-white world of the living down to the saucy and colorful underworld. Faced with odd characters like General Bonesapart (a grisly Napoleon lookalike) and a chorus line of skeletons, Victor is desperate to go back home. “Why go up there when people are dying to get down here?” one character remarks.
With the disappearance of Victor and rumors of his corpse bride, Victoria’s parents betroth her to a stranger. Poor Victoria, under the thumb of her cruel parents, can do nothing but marry a man she doesn’t love.
Meanwhile, back in the underworld, Emily finds out that her marriage to Victor is null and void, because death has already parted them. The only way to truly be married is if Victor dies too. Victor hears the tragic news of Victoria’s marriage, and decides to give up his life to marry the corpse bride.
The whole underworld comes up for a visit to the land of the living for the wedding. At first, the scene looks like an animated version of a zombie movie, but when a small boy approaches a skeleton and says, “Grandpa?” the whole mood changes. The dead approach live counterparts, and engage in a touching reunion.
The final climax is exciting yet slightly predictable. However, the film is stunning. Each character is a caricature. Some have huge bodies with tiny stick legs to hold them up. Others have large chins that are completely disproportionate to their heads and bodies. Another man looks like a human bullfrog. The film is moving art.
Although most of the dialogue is clever and witty, some of it seems half-hearted. “Corpse Bride” doesn’t show as much passion as “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” The songs are cute, but they aren’t as catchy or inspiring as those in “Nightmare.” But the actors are wonderful and really pump life into their characters. Bonham Carter is especially perfect as the half-decayed Emily, who you just can’t help but feel sympathy for.
So, if you’re looking for a hauntingly good time, check out Burton’s “Corpse Bride.”