Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is a stop-motion animated musical horror, that was originally released in 2005, and was directed by Tim Burton in coalition with stop-motion animator, Mike Johnson. The screenplay was written by John August (Big Fish, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory), Caroline Thompson (The Nightmare Before Christmas), and Pamela Pettler, and has a running time of 77 minutes. The movie has a cast of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney, Christopher Lee, Richard E. Grant, and Michael Gough. This is Number One in the ‘500 Films A Year Challenge’.
I viewed this movie on the 2nd of January and felt slightly apprehensive beforehand. My own personal feelings with Tim Burton’s work is that whilst they are often beautifully crafted and have magnificent sets, the stories themselves have gradually gotten worse as he’s gotten further into his career. In essence as Burton has gained more power and creative control, I find him becoming too concerned with just the style, and not the substance. There are some surprises now and again, such as Big Fish, an emotionally-driven movie full of tall tales. Unfortunately, there are also movies such as Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, which seem devoid of any true humanity. However, I had heard good things about this movie, so decided to give it a go.
The standard of animation is very gorgeous, reminiscent of Wallace and Gromit-style stop-motion, through the direction of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari meets Hans Christian Anderson. The set design is akin to Dr Caligari, whereas the story felt like that crafted by Anderson or the Grimm Brothers, the feeling of wonder and amazement teaching a lesson or fable. It wasn’t until afterwards I discovered the story is based on an old Jewish folklore, which makes sense in my eyes, but during the film, I mostly referred to it in my head as ‘Expressionistic Grimm’. The simplicity of the story, an arranged marriage forces the nervous groom (Johnny Depp) to run away and attempt to calm himself, which accidentally leads to marrying an animated corpse, is lean and quick, even leading to slight padding of musical scenes within the movie.
The cast do their best with the minimal story, Johnny Depp seems to be attempting his best Hugh Grant impression as a foppish and awkward gentleman, whilst Helena Bonham Carter plays the kooky and distinctive Corpse Bride, unsurprisingly. The supporting cast offer more strength beyond the very simplistic leading actors, with Joanna Lumley & Albert Finney especially having several zingers as the Bride’s parents, who can’t stand each other. “You must like each other a little?” asks their daughter, with the reply of “Not at all!”
Richard E. Grant has a fantastic time, sinking his teeth into the underhanded snake role of Lord Barkis Bittern, whilst Christopher Lee’s small role as Pastor Gallswells is very enjoyable, Lee’s voice raising the standard alone. There is even a cameo from Michael Gough, formerly Alfred of Batman fame. There was also a call-back to earlier in Burton’s career, with a reanimated dog as a companion, called Scraps, who did make the animal lover in me smile.
The story is simplistic, the design far from it, and if you’re a fan of Burton, you will probably love this movie. For me, it was slightly enjoyable, but had no long-term impact upon me, apart from wanting to spend more time with my pet. Children may love it as well, and it may be worthwhile for parents to show them the movie, but I could personally take it or leave it.
Thumbs Up for the design, but only a 5/10 for me.
Next, Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher.