Corpse Bride (2005)

Rating: ****
Release Date: 9/25/05
Director: Tim Burton
Music: Danny Elfman
Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Christopher Lee, Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney, Michael Gough, Danny Elfman

Astounding! "Tim Burton's Corpse Bride" never fails to be a feast for the eyes, but it's also too much like "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993) for its own good. Victor (twitchy Johnny Depp) and Victoria (delightful Emily Watson) are two miserable young people who are partaking in an arranged wedding. Victor's rich parents are doing it to climb the social ladder, while Victoria's aristocratic parents are doing it to save themselves from destitution. A born artist and romantic at heart, Victor can't do anything right, and when he fouls up his wedding vows, he wanders through a creepy old forest to practice. Unfortunately, his words fall upon the ears of a dead girl named Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), who rises from her grave to accept Victor's unintentional proposal. From there, things go from bad to worse as Victor tries to undo his terrible fate and return to the land of the living, breaking both Emily's and Victoria's hearts in the process. Things eventually work out for the best. I suppose.

A stop-motion film that reportedly took ten years to complete, it looks absolutely FABULOUS. The animation is suberb, the sets are fantastic, and the art direction is marvelous. The not-so-subtle use of line and color reflects just how horrible and oppressive the real world is, while the land of the dead is awash with bright hues and crackling with energy. Unfortunately, the character designs are taken right out of "The Nightmare Before Christmas," which spoils the freshness of the film a bit. By far the weakest element of the film is the story, which is overly predictable and heavy-handed. The script lacks subtlety, and the dialog feels as though it's being delivered like a lead brick. Additionally, the mixed messages of love and marriage are unsettling, and Victor and Victoria's happy ending contradicts the established themes of the film. But if you can put up with these shortcomings, the film has countless treasures to indulge in, for young and old alike.