Corpse Bride is an animated film from Tim Burton in his usual distinctive gothic style. It tells the tale of a young man named Victor who is betrothed to a young woman named Victoria but accidentally marries a corpse and ends up below the earth with all the dead people. This is beautifully made and visually interesting but rather light on laughs and unfortunately includes songs.
Victor Van Dort is a nervous young man, the son of a nouveau riche family. His parents are determined that he should marry class and so they arrange for him to marry Victoria, the daughter of the aristocratic Lord Everglot. Victoria´s parents are keen for the marriage to go ahead as, despite their titled status, they are cash poor. During the rehearsal for their wedding Victor nervously bungles proceedings and ends up running off into the woods.
The Corpse Bride of the title is awaiting Victor in the woods and he practices his vows for Victoria by placing the ring on what appears to be a protruding branch, but is actually her bony hand, thereby inadvertently marrying her. She takes the hapless Victor to the land of the dead and he battles to escape. Meanwhile above ground the wedding plans are threatened by Victor´s disappearance and the arrival of the dodgy Barkis Bittern who wishes to take Victor´s place.
Tim Burton employs his trademark style here creating a cutesy gothic world of caricatures. As with The Nightmare Before Christmas he employs stop-motion animation and the effect is beautiful although it lacks the organic charm of Nick Park´s work; there are no fingerprints in Burton´s models. His direction is very good but the plot is weak and the project doesn´t feel as though it was fully fleshed out before going into production, consequently it feels slow, predictable and lacking in the comedy department.
The writing is poor in places and the tone is very family oriented. There isn´t much in the way of hidden adult humour and the slow pace may cause kids to squirm in their seats. Worst of all are the songs which are always a bad thing in movies, but if you are going to include any they have to be good and this crop simply aren´t. This is the Disney school of shoehorning lyrics which develop the plot onto a tune without a catchy or memorable chorus; instead you get a constantly repeated line. Suffice to say it´s doubtful you´ll be humming any of them on your way out of the cinema.
Corpse Bride features an all-star cast including Burton´s wife Helena Bonham Carter in the title role and his favourite male lead, Johnny Depp, as Victor. There are a host of other people involved including Tracey Ullman, Paul Whitehouse, Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney, Richard E Grant, Christopher Lee and Jane Horrocks. Naturally all of them are very good it´s just a shame that the script isn´t.
This is an impressive film visually and the premise is quite promising but there are no surprises and the plot unfolds exactly as you´d expect with little in the way of excitement or passion. Corpse Bride is only 76 minutes long but it really does feel longer. Not Burton´s best work by a long shot.