Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bald Mountain Night 7: Corpse Bride

Each day in October, intrepid blogger Alex Boivin will watch a horror movie. These movies are all new to him and are part of his month-long effort to fill in his gaps in the horror canon. If he doesn't die from fright, you just might get to read about about his exploits in cinema during the Halloween season.

Watching the early Tim Burton stop-motion short "Vincent" which was included with the House on Haunted Hill review from yesterday inspired me to seek out another macabre exercise in Tim Burton's animated back catalog: 2005's Corpse Bride.

Corpse Bride was a film I had a great interest in seeing in theaters when it popped up four years ago. I've been a Tim Burton fan for a long, long time, having been practically raised by a VHS copy of Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Tim Burton production The Nightmare Before Christmas as well as it's follow-up James and the Giant Peach (both directed by Henry Selick, still need to see Coraline, btw) were also constantly playing on the Boivin family's VCR throughout my childhood. I didn't see Corpse Bride on it's initial theatrical run because I had just started my freshman year of college and unless a movie was Harry Potter 4 it was difficult to get people to see a movie, what with newly easy access to beer and fornication.

Corpse Bride's plot (please consider that a cemetery pun) concerns a young Robert Smith look-alike named Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp) who's engaged to be married to a pretty girl named Victoria. The day before the wedding, squeamish Victor gets cold feet and runs off into the woods to compose himself. However he accidentally drops his engagement ring on the finger of a...corpse, who then believes herself to be his...bride. CORPSE BRIDE (Helena Bonham Carter, Burton's special lady)! Together they go on a fantastic, somewhat song-laden voyage to the land of the dead and learn about true love, and the meaning of death and stuff.

Despite the promise of Tim Burton's return to stop-motion animation, Corpse Bride comes up short in several departments, unfortunately. The film looks great and has a top-notch voice cast (featuring more famous Brits than you can shake a stick at, it's like a Rankin-Bass Love, Actually, but about necrophilia) but still feels flat all over. We're never quite given enough time to spend with Victor, Victoria, or Emily the Corpse Bride, and thusly don't really ever care what happens to them. At a beyond lean 77 minutes, far too much time is devoted to secondary and background characters, though there are some good ones, they themselves are still not given enough time to ingratiate themselves to us (I was a fan of the Napoleon and Duke of Wellington cadavers). Also, the movie is kind of a musical. The problem isn't that it's a musical (I love musicals, among them Burton's Corpse Bride follow-up Sweeney Todd) but rather that it's a half-hearted musical. There are 3 or 4 songs, none of them all that memorable and the main characters don't even sing them. In a musical, songs are best used to communicate a character's inner thoughts, but when they're given to supporting characters rather than primary ones, the effect is lost. The movie is inevitably and rightfully compared to Nightmare Before Christmas, the superior film. The disconnect between the Burton-produced classic and the Burton-directed misfire should be obvious.

Burton gets a lifetime pass from me: no matter how many crappy movies he makes, I'll still await the next film from the guy who brought the world Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Ed Wood, come what may. That being said, I think Alice in Wonderland looks like another Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Final verdict: 23 Congos