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Something Borrowed, Something Blue, Something Decomposing....Eeewwww!
on October 9, 2005
Tim Burton's mind must be a very strange place. Remember, it's where if you commit suicide you have to work for social services in the afterlife (Ref: Beetlejuice). I'm a social worker, so I know what that means! Men with hands made of scissors, Jack Nicholson as Batman's foil...this is one sick puppy of a director.
So when you hear Mr. Burton is directing a film based on an Eastern European folktale in which one of the heroines-the heroines, mind you---is a corpse....well, family fare is not what comes to mind.
And, although it's animated, Corpse Bride definitely is not for the younger set, 9 or so and below. These characters look creepy. The title character has a habit of losing her eye and talking to the maggot, Louie, who lives behind it. Skeletons of dogs and people walk and talk about in the "underworld".
However, like Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands, older children will find the animations amusing and fascinating; and parents will be pleased with the messages packaged in the film.
Briefly, "Corpse Bride" is an animated operetta in which Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp), son of fishmongers, is engaged to Victoria, (Emily Watson) the daughter of nobles who are now penniless. Neither know each other but meet accidentally and fall in love. When Victor stumbles over his complicated wedding vows at the rehearsal, he's humiliated by a stranger at the wedding (Richard E. Grant) and walks in the woods to practice. When he says the vows, he places the ring on a "twig" that turns out to be the finger of Emily (Helena Bonham-Carter), the Corpse Bride, who of course jumps up and happily informs him they are married. (She's very pretty, by the way, dead or not).
Much of the rest of the movie is taken up by Victor trying to figure out how to get out from the Underworld and by Emily trying to either deny he's doing that or actively convince him to stay. Gradually, however, Victor finds, to his surprise, that he is falling in love with Emily.
In the end the viewers have heard some good lessons about love, and the main characters, primarily Emily and Victor, have each been willing to sacrifice greatly for the other, out of their love for each other. The importance of wedding vows is a central theme, and Victor especially gives long thought to whom his alliances lie, given what he's promised, and to whom. And those motivated by greed, such as Richard Grant's character, mostly come out empty handed.
The comedy is brilliant. In one scene, Emily's friends in the "pub" do a number quite reminiscent of the Star Wars cantina scene, given the odd-looking musicians. I'm not sure how well the "operetta" mode works with animation; while claymation gives these characters terrific means of expression, they are still limited in their ability to emote, and musical theatre may be best left to human faces. Still, Danny Elfman's score is beautiful as always.
Leave the wee ones with the other parent next door at "March of the Penguins" or "Wallace and Gromit: Search for the Were-Rabbit", then huddle with the rest of the kids to see this wonderful film.