Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

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Movie Review by Dan Spiers

Starring (voices of): Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson

Directors: Mike Johnson, Tim Burton

It is fitting that TIM BURTON’S CORPSE BRIDE begins and ends with butterflies fluttering across the screen, for it is with us only shortly, 76 minutes in fact, during which time it is an endlessly engaging and invigorating affair.

Glorious to behold and set in a sort of gothic Victorian neverland, it tells the story of Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp), a meek, kind natured youth betrothed to Victoria (Helena Bonham Carter), the daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Everglot.

It is an arranged marriage, with both sets of parents having contrasting expectations of the union. The Van Dort’s, wealthy but of working class heritage, envisage a bejewelled thrust up the social ladder, whilst the Everglot’s, titled but virtually penniless, see it as an opportunity to marry into money.

Remarkably, upon setting eyes upon each other the couple fall instantly in love. Wedded bliss awaits, until Victor wanders into the forest in order to rehearse his vows and inadvertently proposes to a corpse bride who triumphantly takes him to the underworld.

Not only does poor Victor have to contend with this nightmare, but whilst mingling with the walking dead, Victoria is actively pursued by the dashing, but rather sinister Barkiss Bittern (Richard E Grant).

This movie has generous lashings of Tim Burton’s unmistakable style. It is reminiscent of his previous animated feature, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, both in its gothic rendering and its stop-motion style. There are echoes of SLEEPY HOLLOW in the setting and also a fondness for wacky songs previously seen in BEETLEJUICE. With frequent collaborators Depp and Bonham Carter present, it is all rather familiar, but thankfully, no less enjoyable.

For there is a passion infused into the work which is irresistible. The characters, of Dickensian proportions, leap out of the screen, both visually and vocally. There is a butler with a chin sharp enough to dice carrots, a priest with facial features pointy enough to pick a lock, not to mention the corpse bride herself. This is a woman with flesh dangling from bared bones, whose best friend is a worm who lives in her skull. When the occasion demands it he forcibly ejects her eyeball and emerges from the socket to make his point. Marvellous.

But the characters do not stand alone. Rather, they inhabit worlds as painstakingly created as themselves. In the underworld, buildings resemble their inhabitants, facades torn back to their wooden bones. There are also the gnarled and knotted trees of the foreboding forest set alongside the soulless grandeur of the Everglot mansion.

This is simply a smorgasbord of visual delights, backed up by a script which is both funny and at times touching. Although Burton sometimes misdirects his renowned creative talents, this film is a well honed piece of work in every sense. There is a real zest for animated film making on display and an inventiveness that is tangible enough to be infectious. I hope.

5 out of 6 stars