The characters in the latest Tim Burton film are dead, and other aspects of the film aren’t too lively either.
“The Corpse Bride” is the latest addition to Burton’s long repertoire of imaginative and typically melancholic inventions and his second legitimate animated (or rather, “claymated”) film. The film is clearly dependent upon drawing most of its audience from those who appreciated his previous “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” as he incorporates many of the same visually poetic themes.
As fans of his work overwhelmingly acknolwedge, the most appealing components of Burton’s films are his characteristic animation and casting style. Shadowy forms, dark and sullen countenances, skeletal grins and waifs with wispy hair are all the trademark properties that make Burton’s films everything from sardonic to inspirational. The imaging is, as always, fantastic. The story, while tragic, is rather short and shallow, not quite living up to its own nor Burton’s full potential.
The film boasts a disinguished cast with Johnny Depp, Emily Watson and Helena Bonham Carter lending their voices – but even they cannot breathe depth into the wholly predictable plot and behaviors.
Characters include the young and timid Victor (Depp); the secluded and repressed Victoria (Watson), to whom Victor is betrothed; and Emily (Carter), who is a murdered bride still seeking validation through marriage. Victor, who runs away after his mortifying wedding ceremony, accidentally awakens and marries a corpse who is still waiting for the fiance who abandoned her. Victoria and Emily learn of each other’s existence, and Victor is left with a decision to make.
Part of the film’s weakness can be attributed to its fluctuation between attempting to portray Emily as a delicate damsel in distress and a forsaken and wrathful ghoul. Her character cannot, however, be described as either of these. Instead, she is pitiable, desperate and altogether girly. There is no mystery or intrigue to her woeful story, not even when the audience has yet to learn of her origins. Though her sacrifice at the end makes her the hero of the film, the way in which it was directed makes this film more reminiscent of Disney classics.
The film more explicitly demonstrates Burton’s tendency to portray a traditional and isolated world such as those in “Edward Scissorhands” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” where everything remains the same until something bizarre and unexpected jars the bland repetitiveness of the characters’ lives.
It is a combination of these faults that make “The Corpse Bride” a spoof of Burton’s earlier work. Characters that are less than endearing, predictable outcomes and self-imitation are the shortcomings that don’t allow “The Corpse Bride” to live up to Burton’s previous standards. n
“The Corpse Bride” is showing in theaters nationwide.