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ISSUE 119 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 9/30/2005

'Corpse Bride' pales to 'Nightmare'

By Bret Hemmerlin
Executive Editor


Friday, September 30, 2005

Most Tim Burton films open with a flourish of style, utilizing crane shots, fast cut-aways and revealing character zooms. These dazzling techniques are then contrasted by a liberal use of bleak colors and tones. We see this most notably in the dreary grays in "Planet of the Apes," the slight yellows in "Sleepy Hollow," and the drowning blacks in "Batman." "Corpse Bride" is no exception to the rule.

A typical feast-for-the-eyes-film, Burton paints the town (literally) with a variety of sepia tones echoing the dullness of Dorothy's Kansas and evoking the same immediate sense of boredom, corruption and also that hopeful sense of wonder, which are perfectly illustrated in the first scenes with Victor (voiced with nervous perfection by Burton favorite Johnny Depp).

Victor, looking as though he went through liposuction and was then given stilts for legs, sits at his desk worrying about his arranged marriage to wide-eyed Victoria - voiced by Emily Watson - a Juliet transported to the Victorian era and then put into the body of a Precious Moments figurine.

When Victor and Victoria meet, however, they realize they are, surprisingly, a perfect fit. Even the outrageous sternness and propriety of the couple's parents cannot squelch the joys they will share in years to come. Unfortunately, Victor's awkwardness, which lends lasting comic timing throughout the film, sends him running into the effective skeleton-like woods, away from his newfound love. In an attempt to memorize his wedding vows, Victor accidentally marries a dead woman, a corpse bride.

The cold, blue-skinned corpse bride (Burton's fiancée Bonham-Carter) brings the now unconscious Victor down to underworld, a mish-mash of bright neon colors and dancing skeletons a-la-80s dance club. With no real religious implications, this underworld is filled with skeletons who dance, sing, joke, love, drink and party all night long. Burton pokes fun at an ironic afterlife where the dead lead more vibrant lives than the people actually living.

As the film unfolds into the story of the corpse bride's untimely end, Burton whisks the audience to an uninspired mystery: musical interludes from an unbelievably annoying and un-funny maggot, a troop of tap-dancing zombies and a delightfully witty black widow.

Musically, "Corpse Bride" lacks the energy and verbosity of its predecessor, "A Nightmare Before Christmas." The songs, although not poorly written, sample the usual and repetitive Danny Elfman characteristics: fast passed fiddles and bouncing baritones ad nauseam. Nevertheless, Burton and co-director Mike Johnson eclipse their musical aspirations with the sweet fairy tale which, despite its predictability, leaves the viewer touched by its simple emotion and impressed with its care for beauty, even in the ugliest of places.

The film's humor, beauty, artistry, energy and magic will no doubt keep audiences entertained, if not wowed, for its 76-minute run. Better than "Mars Attacks," but not as moving as "Big Fish," Burton still manages to evoke feelings of childish wonder throughout the film.

The dreadfully delightful Corpse Bride is definitely not a breakthrough film, though it surely has done a terrific job resurrecting the otherwise overlooked genre of the stop-motion-animation musical from the dead.





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