Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

on September 16, 2005 by Kevin Courrier
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For much of his career, director Tim Burton ("Beetlejuice," "Batman") has confidently woven together elements of the macabre and gothic romance into a sumptuous comic symphony. Lately, however, he has been plagued by projects that are disastrous misfires ("Mars Attacks!"), ill-conceived ("Planet of the Apes") or uneven fantasies ("Big Fish," "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"). In "Corpse Bride," Burton recovers his lost chord and delivers a whirling dervish of a masterpiece.

It's a delirious piece of stop-motion animation that's set in a cheerless 19th-century European village, where the bumbling Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) is about to marry the bashful Victoria Everglott (Emily Watson). At the rehearsal, Victor badly stumbles over his wedding vows and dashes away into the forest in embarrassment. While practising, he places the wedding ring on what he believes is a twig. It turns out, however, to be the bony finger of Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), a murdered bride. She gleefully rises from her grave to declare Victor as her groom. Once Victor disappears with Emily down to the necropolis where she resides, a conniving Lord Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant) starts to put the moves on the abandoned Victoria.

Adapting the ghoulishly comic style that Henry Selick displayed in Burton's 1993 animated musical "The Nightmare Before Christmas," Mike Johnson and Burton mix, with a fervent assurance, darkly clever puns and inspired visual gags. Depp's Victor is a gauntly endearing heartsick romantic whose spirit is awakened by Bonham Carter's beautifully melancholic and lovesick cadaver. Yet as dazzling and hilarious as "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" is, the film is also as genuinely entrancing as a ghost story. Burton's grand tale of romantic bereavement induces tears of laughter that are inseparable from tears of remorse. Voiced by Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Johanna Lumley, Albert Finney and Richard E. Grant. Directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson. Written by John August, Caroline Thompson and Pamela Pettier. Produced by Tim Burton and Allison Abate. A Warner Bros. release. Animated. Rated PG for some scary images and action, and brief mild language. Running time: 77 min

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