Destitute aristocrats plan on marrying their daughter Victoria to the son of wealthy merchants, Victor, in order to regain some wealth of their own. The day Victoria and Victor meet happens to be the day of their wedding rehearsal and while they are instantly smitten with one another, Victor continually messes up his wedding vows, prompting him to flee to the woods to practice them before the big day.
While doing so, he slips a ring on a tree branch, which conjures the corpse of a murdered bride. She claims Victor as her husband and whisks him about to the Land of the Dead. Victor then has to find a way back to Victoria before she’s married off to the evil Lord Barkis.
I really adore stop-motion animation and The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite spooky/holiday films. I recall seeing Corpse Bride in the theaters back in 2005 but I haven’t watched it since, until now. I can’t help but wonder why. Corpse Bride is exactly the kind of movie I would love to watch around this time of year.
This film is the kind of Tim Burton I adore. A darkly whimsical fairy tale set in an imaginative world that only Burton could create. The Land of the Living is, of course, set in a grayish, drab tone, symbolizing Victor’s loneliness, Victoria’s neglect, and their respective parents’ greed and ambition. When the titular character, Emily, appears, she pulls Victor into the Land of the Dead, and of course, it’s colorful and loud, full of singing skeletons and talking spiders.
The songs themselves are fun, though not as memorable as anything in The Nightmare Before Christmas, and the voice talent does an incredible job at bringing the characters to life. How can you go wrong with Albert Finney, Christopher Lee, and Helena Bonham Carter? Surprisingly, I felt like Johnny Depp and Emily Watson were the weak links here, but that could be because their characters are quite meek and so their performances come across as the same.
More than anything, Corpse Bride is a visually stunning film. At times, I found myself more focused on how the movie looked than what was going on. Occasionally I would just sigh happily because a certain shot was so beautiful. And like The Nightmare Before Christmas, every character in Corpse Bride comes to life, no matter how small the role. Emily might very well be one of my favorite animated characters, though I can’t be the only one who thought she looked like Angelina Jolie. I mean, she does… right?? She’s a woman who died because she fell in love and all she wants is for someone to love her in return. It’s a simple, bittersweet premise, but it’s given life by Burton.
I wish Burton had focused more on these kinds of films than the live-action movies that followed in his career. Sure, they look like Tim Burton, but they’re also missing the macabre charm that was/is Burton’s trademark. Watching Corpse Bride made me miss old school Burton quite a lot. That being said, I would definitely recommend Corpse Bride if you’re looking for a romantic, ghoulish Halloween movie. And it’s only 77 minutes long so if you decide you don’t like it, at least you haven’t wasted too much spooky movie time, right?