I haven’t watched a lot of Halloween movies lately, and truth be told, I haven’t been in the mood for the holiday lately. I don’t know if this is because Halloween is a bit different this year because of the pandemic, or if it’s just a side effect of getting older, but for better or worse, this month was more or less business as usual.
But despite this, I couldn’t help but to close out the month with a spooky Halloween movie, and there is no better place to go than Tim Burton’s extensive filmography, and 2005’s “Corpse Bride” came to mind for no particular reason.
The third of Tim Burton’s stop motion films, I never saw “Corpse Bride” when it came out, but I remembered commercials for it. Like “Frankenweenie” (2012) and “Coraline” (2009; which Burton had nothing to do with, but was directed by “Nightmare Before Christmas” director Henry Selick), I thought it was charmingly bizarre, if I was initially a little scared by it as a kid. Though in truth, there was nothing to be afraid of, as the film is full of innocent cartoon Halloween camp (Ironically, it would be films like “The Ant Bully” that would leave me mentally scarred as a kid).
“Corpse Bride” follows a very simple premise. In Victorian-era England, Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp), a nouveau-rich son of fish merchants, is to marry Victoria Everglot (Emma Watson), the daughter of broke aristocrats. Victor’s parents are unremarkable, but Victoria’s parents, Maudeline (Joanna Lumley) and Finis (Albert Finney) are cartoonishly over-the-top and are as memorable as they are miserable. The late Christopher Lee also voices a character in this, the strict Pastor Galswells.
But all goes awry when Victor messes up his wedding vows, and clumsily ruins the wedding ceremony, which leads to him running away in the woods to get them right. But in doing so, he accidentally proposes to a dead woman named Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), who accepts his hand in marriage, dragging him down to the land of the dead in the process. Victor must now find a way to break off his marriage to the Corpse Bride and make his way to the land of the living before Victoria is married off to the shady Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant), encountering many spooky and kooky characters along the way.
The best thing about “Corpse Bride” is its colorful, stylistic production that still looks really nice in 2020. I like how through the use of lighting, color and production design, the land of the dead feels so much more alive and happy than the land of the living, which I portrayed often in shades of gray as miserable and restrictive. The film also features a few musical numbers that help set town and energy, but none are particularly memorable; I honestly can’t name one number by memory, and I saw the film several days ago.
It’s story is fun and does build up earned suspense when we learn more about who Emily’s killer was, and Emily and Victor are incredibly likeable, though admittedly their celebrity voices do little to elevate them. If you go into this movie blind, you probably won’t know that Emily and Victor are voiced by Bonham Carter and Depp, and it probably would’ve suited the film better to have hired actors that focus specifically in voice acting. However, not a penny was lost on Grant and Lee, who have wonderfully pronounced voices that translated well into animation.
“Corpse Bride” is by no mean’s Burton’s magnum opus, but it is a solid entry in his filmography. If you want to put on a competent spooky film, “Corpse Bride” will certainly do the job.
“Corpse Bride” gets an 8/10