In a dark, near-monochrome world of carriages, corsets, family fortunes and fishmongers, Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp), has been promised to Victoria (Emily Watson), daughter of the now penniless Lord and Lady Everglot. On the eve of their wedding rehersal, Victor is exceptionally nervous and after a particularly embarassing faux pas he runs for the hills in disgrace. He gathers his resolve in the middle of the forest and begins to recite his vows, placing the ring on a twig. Only problem is that the twig is the skeletal arm of the once-jilted Emily (Helena Bonham Carter): the Corpse Bride.
What follows is a typical (if darkly twisted) farce with zippy musical numbers and enough eye candy to keep your brain busy for the full 76-minute runtime. If zombie corpses, talking maggots and animated skeletons are not your cup of tea, you might want to check the other films at your local cineplex. Luckily, for those of us who carry Nightmare Before Christmas lunchboxes, own copies of Edward Gorey's books and decorate their homes with reproductions of Jose Guadalupe Posada prints, this film exists.
The Corpse Bride, based on a Russian folktale, marks Tim Burton's return to stop-motion animation. Scale and artistic abilities aside, this film uses technology which is widely available: Apple's Final Cut Pro and Canon digital SLR cameras. While the details of Corpse Bride are not quite as rich and varied as Nightmare Before Christmas, they still exceed the detail of many live-action films.
Burton fans will recognize many of his usual cast of collaborators -- Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Albert Finney and Christopher Lee have all starred in multiple Burton films and Danny Elfman has been musically interpreting Burton's visions since 1985's Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Fans will also notice many nods to Burton's own films and those of his inspirations -- the piano Victor plays is a "Harry Hausen" and the first musical number in the world of the dead is clearly an homage to the very first of Disney's Silly Symphonies, The Skeleton Dance (1929).
In the end, if you are already a Burton fan going into the theatre, the Corpse Bride will not disappoint; on the other hand, I doubt it will win Burton a wider audience.
Every Burton fan should own Nightmare Before Christmas
You might also like Edward Gorey's Amphigorey
Check out Viva la Muerte, a collection of Posada lithographs