A review of “Tim Burton's Corpse Bride” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: PG for intense black humor

Run Time: 1 hour, 19 minutes

 

 

Tim Burton brings his gothic sleight of hand to the big screen for the second time this year, having already enthralled the masses with the magical imagery of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”.

          “Bride” reeks of Burton-style, borne of a freakish place in the psyche that feeds on the underbelly of things that go bump in the night. A love story cum morality tale, “Bride” spins a fable of skittish bridegroom Victor Van Dort (voice of Burton muse Johnny Depp) who is betrothed to an unassuming maiden of good stock and little wealth.

          Just as the pair are finding their footing there is a dramatic mishap that charts a bleak course for romantic disaster. While walking in the woods to practice his vows Victor mistakenly proposes to a, well, corpse, mistaking her beseeching ring finger for a gnarled tree limb.

          Hitched is hitched and since the Corpse Bride (voice of Helena Bonham Carter) was left at the altar pre-death she has no interest in letting a good thing go. Victor wants to return to his fiancé while his lifeless femme fatale wants to meet his folks (gulp). Thus begins a whimsical journey that unfolds almost entirely below ground, where a daily diet of dark deeds is the modus operandi.

          Burton is one of a handful of directors whose gloomy vision translates to screen with its quirky nature fully intact. His take on True Love? Fundamentally peculiar offset by a bewitching torn-between-two-lovers charm.

Director and collaborator Danny Elfman (my audio god) make beautiful music together; a silky match of bizarre visuals and discordant but compelling tunesmanship. A musical number or two have an irritably shrill quality; crazy cackling skeletons whirling dervishly around their six-feet-under counterparts with maniacal glee.

          Stop motion animation is an admirable and painstaking art and “Bride” shines as a genuine labor of love. Tight running time is in keeping with the minimal nature of the central conceit -- love conquers all -- and the essential sense of noirish gloom. Bravo Mr. Burton, bravo.