Thursday 22 May 2008

Corpse Bride (2005)

I so wanted to fall in love with The Nightmare Before Christmas. I kept my Corpse Bride DVD on the shelf until I could see it so that I'd see the things in order. And I was sorely disappointed. I enjoyed it but was completely not blown away, possibly in part because it was not at all what I expected. As I wrote in my review, 'maybe I was expecting something darker, something more topical and less abstract, something that wasn't a musical.' It was a fun kids film with Tim Burton touches but that was it. I'm happy to say that Corpse Bride, while still a musical, is a lot closer to what I was hoping to see.

Victor Van Dort is the son of a nouveau riche family who plan to marry him off to Victoria Everglot, daughter of a family of class. The Everglots are horrified at their daughter marrying so low but they're broke and the Van Dorts have a rather healthy bank balance. However after making a great impression on young Emily, he makes a complete pig's ear out of the rehearsal and trying to get his vows right in the middle of the forest, he accidentally proposes to a tree, who turns out to be the Corpse Bride of the title. Suddenly young Victor finds himself married to a corpse who whisks him off to a delightfully surreal afterlife, from which he tries to find a way out of to get back to his Victoria.

Surreal is definitely the word of the day. Tim Burton has a dark and very surreal imagination and he lets rip with it here in precisely the same way he didn't in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The imagery is straight out of Terry Gilliam, if he'd have animated for Burton instead of Monty Python. The story is touching and beautiful to a gothic mindset. It's deliciously dark in a very old school way, befitting the Victorian English setting, and the actors are almost entirely English so the accents work a treat. And what a cast!

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter play the leads, with Emily Watson as Victoria. Tracey Ullman is both Victor's mother and Victoria's nurse. Paul Whitehouse, from Depp's favourite TV programme, The Fast Show, plays no less than three very different characters. The Everglots are Joanna Lumley and Albert Finney. There's Richard E Grant, Christopher Lee sounding rather like Karloff the Uncanny and Jane Horrocks. There's a memorable Michael Gough who has a wonderful character design as a hunchbacked skeleton with a beard as long as he is.

Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, it's also full of detail and points of reference. I loved the Harryhausen piano, and the maggot that lives behind the Corpse Bride's eyeball who sounds like Peter Lorre and is a joyous riot. He should have his own TV series. I loved the expressionistic Busby Berkeley number with skeletons, sung by Danny Elfman like a cross between Louis Prima and Tom Waits. The Gone with the Wind and Enter the Dragon references would be lost on the youth of today but they're both peaches. And so is the film. This is what I wanted The Nightmare Before Christmas to be. If the musical side of things, which is kept reasonably minimal, stands up as I think it will it'll be even better.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved it, but it's hard for me to say if I like CB or NBC better. They're both so good!!!
I'm an official ambassador for the upcoming movie City of Ember (10/10/08) and I'm coming to you first because I have some exclusive first-look pictures that you might enjoy and share with your blog readers. City of Ember was written by Caroline Thompson who ALSO wrote Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Email me if you want them, I'd love to share them with you.
They look fantastic, and really made me excited for the the release.
Have you heard anything about the book by Jeanne DuPrau?
I really think you'd like City of Ember because of you obviously like some of Caroline Thompson's other works!
Would love to be in touch!
Amber Baynor
Official Ambassador