Burton had his way, every holiday would
have a touch of Halloween to it. The
animated musical The Nightmare Before
Christmas, which Burton conceived
and produced, turned the Season To Be
Jolly over to the ghosties and ghoulies
of late October.
Corpse Bride, now available on DVD,
he infuses the atmosphere of the
graveyard into a sweet, delicate love
story worthy of Valentine's Day.
enacted by stop-motion puppets
reminiscent of Edward Gorey drawings,
unfolds in a vaguely Victorian setting,
and involves an arranged marriage gone
rail-thin youth Victor (voiced by Johnny
Depp) is betrothed to Victoria (Emily
Watson) for the financial benefit of her
odious parents and the social benefit of
his equally odious parents. The couple,
surprisingly, take a liking to each
other, but Victor panics at the
rehearsal and bolts into a nearby
forest. While practicing his vows in
what he thinks is solitude, he's
overheard by the moldering corpse of
beautiful young bride (Helena
Bonham-Carter), who rises from the sod
and claims him for her husband.
bride met her fate just before her
wedding—she's still in her white
gown—and she isn't about to let being
dead prevent her from experiencing the
happiest day of her…well, of her
of Corpse Bride concerns the
disentangling of this cosmic
misunderstanding, in the course of which
we also learn the background of the
bride's earlier betrayal.
charm arises from the unexpectedly
tender, even touching, emotional tone of
the story, balanced by the cheerful
whimsy of Burton's approach to the
macabre (Burton co-directed, with
animator Mike Johnson).
sense of revulsion behind Burton's
images of death and decay; he seems to
find the whole idea rather attractive.
The Land of the Dead is depicted as
quite a jolly, elegant place, and when
Victor visits there he's reunited with
the playful bones of his childhood dog.
corruption of one's own body is shown to
have advantages—the maggot that resides
inside the Bride's skull dispenses
comfort to the lovelorn.
preferred Corpse Bride to The
Nightmare Before Christmas. Its only
shortfall for me—one it shares with
Nightmare—is a slight lack of
distinction in composer/lyricist Danny
Elfman's songs. Elfman is one of
Hollywood's indisputable musical
geniuses, but he isn't at his most
brilliant in these two scores.
Corpse Bride had a couple of really
memorable tunes, it would qualify as a
little classic; as it is, it comes
The disc is generously if
unexcitingly packed with a batch of
behind-the-scenes documentaries on
subjects ranging from Elfman's music to
the (superb) voice cast to the
painstaking animation process, along
with a trailer and a music-only track.
family suitability, this one is a tough
call. The style and the pleasantly
ghoulish humor should give it plenty of
appeal for most kids, but it's possible
that these same attributes would freak
other kids out.
All I can
say is that I would have loved it.
Moorhead is a former movie critic at
Phoenix New Times. He writes regularly
for Wrangler News.