‘By Jove, man, looks like we’ve got ourselves a breather!’ The cadaver’s patronising chortle says it all: being alive is nothing to shout about in this, the second stop-motion feature from Tim Burton. In an Orpheus-type story split between the maudlin, near-monochrome land of the living and a razzle-dazzle-’em underworld, it’s clear that the dead have more fun – indeed, they might have a better time than audiences as ‘Corpse Bride’, though beautifully conceived and impeccably realised, remains somewhat cold to the touch.In a nineteenth-century middle-European town, Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp), timid and sensitive son of grotesque nouveaux riches – he’s in fish – is lined up to marry Victoria (Emily Watson), heiress of some equally ghastly down-at-heel aristos. It’s a reasonable match – both look as if they’d faint at the slam of a door – but matters are complicated by Victor’s inadvertent betrothal to Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), a marriage-fixated corpse and not a bad sort, once you get used to the sight of her ribs twinkling through her decomposing bodice and the maggot that lives in her eye. As in 1993’s ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ – also executed by another director and accompanied by Danny Elfman’s creepy-swoopy score and wordy songs – animation proves the ideal mode for Burton’s cute-Gothic aesthetic, with its curlicue scenery, dry-twig limbs and macabre flourishes. Yet there’s nothing here to really frighten the horses: the Bride is sympathetically clingy rather than menacingly possessive and the most disturbing element of the love triangle – its licensing of Victor’s death wish – is skated over. Although very likeable and very well animated, ‘Corpse Bride’ just isn’t very, well… animated.
Friday October 21 2005
Mike Johnson, Tim Burton
Caroline Thompson, Pamela Pettler, John August