Corpse Bride (2005) – Capsule Review

Director Tim Burton’s previous voyages to the land of odd (such as Edward Scissorhands, Big Fish, and Ed Wood), have led audiences to expect his films to be completely off-kilter. However, while Corpse Bride obviously skews towards the ghoulish, that is all that really separates it from your average animated romance. There are splashy musical numbers (performed by skeletons rather than dishes and candlesticks); singing creature sidekicks (a maggot here instead of a crab or warthog); and black widow spiders sew the outfits rather than housemice and blue birds— the elements are all here. This time around, the love triangle involves gentle-hearted Victor, who inadvertantly marries Emily (a dead woman who was murdered on her way to elopement), and is whisked away to the land of the dead while fiancee Victoria waits for him above (I know it sounds bizare, but it comes across much more normally than it sounds). The animation is quite excellent, with expressiveness that makes me wonder whether there was any CGI thrown into the mix. As far as characters go, the rather simple narrative that takes place over two days doesn’t leave much room for growth, but there manages to be time to see why both of these two ladies could win Victor’s heart and I found myself unsure of which to root for. As expected, but perhaps regrettable, is the way death is treated in this story. Despite its centrality to the premise of the movie, characters go from the land of the dead to the land of the living quite easily. (It’s more like crossing over into the neighbouring town than the metaphysical great divide.) Sure, it’s a kids movie and we don’t need to get too heavy, but giving a bit more gravity to the idea of death would probably have elevated some of the themes like treachery, loss, and sacrifice. Nevertheless, I think Corpse Bride achieves all it sets out to be: part pretty picture, part bedtime story. (3.5 out of 5)

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