Updated: Jun 10, 2019
To say that Tim Burton has an affinity for the realm of the strange would be an understatement. His films are the same amount dreary and colorful. This is due to his incredible attention to detail when it comes to set and character design, costumes and the energy that he asks for from his cast. This is most evident in what I claim to be his finest work, the stop motion gem that is “Corpse Bride.”
The film follows Victor, a shy and fumbling man who is to wed a woman named Victoria. Things happen and after a failed wedding rehearsal, Victor sulks in the woods trying to remember his vows. Upon finally getting them down he accidentally becomes betrothed to a corpse named Emily and is dragged down to the world of the dead. How will Victor get back to the world of the living? Will he and Victoria get married? Who the hell is Lord Barkis?
That’s a lot to fit into a 77-minute runtime. That being said, “Corpse Bride” does an excellent job of entertaining an audience. There is something enchanting about Burton’s fascination with the dead, as seen with other films with his name on it such as “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Beetlejuice.”
In “Corpse Bride” the land of the living is this mournful place, devoid of color for the most part. The music that is played has a somber, albeit beautiful, feel to it. This contrasts heavily with the land of the dead. What would be expected to be sullen and dark is lively and colorful. The dead have dynamic personalities and their music makes you want to dance.
To further dwell on the music, it’s safe to say that Burton’s longtime collaborator Danny Elfman has made one of his finest works to date. His use of strings, wind and chorus gives this haunted world so much heart and soul. Every time you hear a song, whether it be “Victor’s Piano Solo” or “The Piano Duet,” you can’t help but close your eyes and wave your hands in the wind.
The cast’s performances are what really make the film worth watching though. Johnny Depp really made Victor feel like a man worth watching throughout his escapade. The leading lady Emily was brilliantly played by Helena Bonham Carter, who you genuinely care about and only want the best for. The chemistry between the two characters, their dysfunctional relationship and how it manifests by the end of the film is both sweet and sour, but in a good way. One scene in particular, when the two hash out the details of their relationship after a trip to the land of the living, is a prime example of the way they play off of each other. Emily’s quiet hurt mixes so beautifully with Victor’s hasty response and following remorse.
True love seems like a farce in the film if you look at the fact that everything takes place in a single day. But if you hold suspension of disbelief then it’s not dumb or facetious at all. It’s quite honestly one of, if not, Burton’s best.
In case it isn’t clear, this is a movie that deserves to be seen. It deserves to be loved and adored just like its characters, music and excellent use of stop motion animation. Do yourself a favor and watch it tonight.