Corpse Bride

Hmmm. This seems to have the full title of “Tim Burton‘s Corpse Bride“. Normally, when a film is labeled “So-and-so’s Such-and-such” it’s usually material that’s been done to death in many variations being done in a ‘truer’ sense (eg Mary Shelley‘s Frankenstein, Bram Stoker‘s Dracula). So, is this Burton clearly announcing that he’s going back to the gothic where he belongs after the shallow candy-color of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory or messy frivolity of Big Fish? We’ll see.

And, this sees Burton back in stop motion animation where he previously experience unwarranted praise with The Nightmare Before Christmas. I say unwarranted not because the film was not very good (which is true) but because he was heralded as some saviour of a dead technique. But, we all know it never went away.

Anyway, Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp in a highly mannered English accent – leading to the question why?, surely any join British actor could’ve saved a lot of cash) is so nervous about getting married that he ill-advisedly takes to a highly spooky wood to practice his vows. Overjoyed at getting them right he slips the ring onto what he takes to be an old branch but turns out to be the hand of a corpse, to whom he then finds himself married.

And, it all trots along with a decent pace and some really nice touches and set pieces (including a good comedy dog, which no film should be without). But, (oh, you knew it was coming) it has that thing that all Burton’s films have where it just doesn’t quite hit the mark that you think it does. (All with the honourable exception of Ed Wood, probably his most untypical work.) I realise that makes little sense, but I know what I mean. Take Beetlejuice, largely recognised as a fast talking wisecracking near-live Looney Tunes style film. It’s not really. Michael Keaton‘s essential central performance is deeply flawed and near incoherent. The film lacks any real internal logic. And, although fun enough, just not right.

There is a very distinct look to Burton’s work. And this, to a certain extent looks, expectedly, good. But, in the 3D, some of the model characterisations don’t work. I lost count of the number of times that I realised someone’s mouth was actually set in a completely different part of their face. Burton’s drawings are beautifully dark and spooky, I can’t help thinking this’d have been a much greater achievement had he done a proper 2D drawn animation (now that’s a dying art). I even found my mind wandering to thoughts of a live action version – surely, not the desired effect. The actual animation is not even that good, characters walking seems to owe more to the Trumpton school of bobbing up and down. I suppose there’s always the get out of it being a back-handed tribute to Ray Harryhausen (who gets a sly reference in the film).

Once again Danny Elfman provides a wonderful incidental score and goddawful musical numbers. Stop this now.

Maybe I’m being unfair on what is essentially a slightly spooky kids movie. But, I so want Burton’s film to do they promise. And, not just because they are so beloved of young goth girls. I’m sure I let Terry Gilliam get away with loads of the same not-quites, even admire it as part of his style (no doubt we’ll see next week).

In Blake EdwardsSOB the main selling point was him getting his missus to take her top off. Tim, Helena…?

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Written by Tony Kiernan

03 November 2005 at 12:03 pm

Posted in Film

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