Corpse Bride


I liked Corpse Bride a lot. Quite a lot. Very much. It makes it awkward to review it. I don’t particularly feel like gushing for five paragraphs. I could just write all my criticisms down, and say: “The rest was fantastic.” But that seems silly, too, and unrepresentative. I could just take one aspect of the film, that had one or two problems, describe that in detail, and say: “The rest of the film was like that, but multiplied by some reasonably large number.” I’ve never tried to factorise a review before. It could make the review easier to read through if I just wrote “beautiful ( voices + bride + cinematography ).” Or maybe not.

Well, that’s one paragraph done right there. I’m practically finished. Let’s have some facts now. Corpse Bride is a stop-motion film, in a similar vein to director Tim Burton’s earlier The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I haven’t seen. It’s unfortunate that I’ve not seen it, because then I could have compared the two and filled up the rest of this paragraph. As it is, it’s still feeling a little weedy. I could talk about the stop-motion process in more detail, but I’d rather you just read this article from the Motion Picture Editors Guild newsletter, because it’s all very complicated. It also stars a lot of the same people that were in Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I have it on good authority that they were not aware they were going to be in the film: Burton would just manipulate his conversations with them so as to get them to say something like the script, and record the results. This was particularly difficult for him in the case of Johnny Depp, as he rarely uses his precise, nervous British accent in normal conversation.

That paragraph ended up pretty chunky. Awesome. Almost halfway there. Allow me to briefly summarise the plot. Victor is a young man living in some quiet, walled town in the middle of nowhere. He’s the son of some nouveaux riche fish mongers, and some destitute nobility need to marry their daughter to him in order to continue to live in the manner they’ve become accustomed to. While the conveniently named Victoria is very likeable, and they get on well, Victor’s still a little nervous, and screws up the marriage practice. So he runs off into the forbidding wood outside town and practices on a twig.

Except that it’s not a twig, as it turns out: It’s the CORPSE BRIDE! Cue thunderclap!

That’s enough plot. Let’s talk about the Bride herself. Hopefully I’ve chosen some good pictures to publish with this review to convince you how amazing the film looks. But I’d better hammer the point home, and she’s a good example. She’s blue.1 One arm and one leg are completely stripped to the bone. Her right eye keeps popping out and there’s a maggot crawling through her head. But she is beautiful, and charming, and heart-breakingly sad. Part of this is from Helena Bonham Carter’s adorable voice, but most is from the deft animation. There’s a scene where she’s dancing elegantly and joyfully around her new fiancé, and her leg gets stuck in the mud, and she flows on without it, before having to go back and awkwardly reattach it. If that doesn’t sound like fun to you, then this film might not be for you. The film has some amazing images, and fantastic colours and frames, but perhaps the biggest triumph is the brilliant comic timing that the stop-motion characters have been given.

Wow. This is the fifth paragraph, if you don’t count that teeny one between three and four. And I don’t. I’m almost there, and no gushing. Well, except for that last paragraph. I count a “beautiful”, two “amazings”, a “brilliant”, and a “fantastic”.2 Damn. Well, I’m not deleting it now, otherwise I’d have to delete this paragraph too. Instead let me attempt to tell you, finally, what Corpse Bride feels like. The story feels like a fairytale that you somehow missed when you were young.3 The good guys are obviously good guys — though many of them are animated corpses. The baddies are clearly baddies. But the plot twists in a few unexpected ways, so that you’re not entirely sure things will work out well at the end. The songs aren’t brilliant, but they’re jolly, and in the case of the Corpse Bride’s lament, very endearing. The voices are those of almost every good British actor you can think of. Perhaps most importantly, there are gloriously shameless puns throughout.

Oops. I said “glorious”. Better stop there.

  1. Mind you, there is something about blue chicks. Drow elves, Mystique, Zhaan from Farscape. Well, actually, Chiana was hotter, and she was grey. Hmmm. What this all means I’m not sure.
  2. I had “beautiful” three times initially. Marvel at my voluminous vocabulary.
  3. It’s entirely possible that it is, and I missed it.
Why go up there when people are dying to get down here? — Elder Gutknecht

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