Fri, Sep 30, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Dead set on marriage

BY MANOHLA DARGIS  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Tim Burton's new film involves meticulously moving inanimate objects around and photographing them, frame by frame

PHOTO: AP

A necrophiliac entertainment for the whole family to enjoy, Tim Burton's Corpse Bride marks the director's latest venture into the world of stop-motion animation, following Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. As in Nightmare, kooky and spooky things go bump in the night, this time in the service of a lightly kinked romance about a melancholic boy, the girl he hopes to marry and the bodacious cadaver that accidentally comes between them.

Directed by Burton and Mike Johnson, and written by John August, Caroline Thompson and Pamela Pettler, the story hangs on a timid bachelor with matchstick legs and a pallid complexion, Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp), whose upwardly mobile parents arrange his marriage to Victoria (Emily Watson), the retiring daughter of impoverished gentry. When the wedding rehearsal goes kablooey, Victor retreats into the woods, whereupon he becomes the reluctant object of desire of the Corpse Bride, a blue-tinted beauty with gnawed-through limbs and a miraculously preserved bosom (Helena Bonham Carter, the director's very alive partner). Together, the eerie couple descends into the land of shades, inducing Victor to trade the world of the barely living for the land of the exuberantly dead.

For Victor and for his two directors, the underworld soon proves a more hospitable place than the world above, and far more entertaining. Above, the living shuffle about as somnolently as zombies amid a rainbow of gray, while down below, the walls are splashed with absinthe green, and the skeletons shake, rattle and roll. Bursting with mischief and life of a sort (think the grinning skulls of the Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada), these skeletons dance themselves to pieces for a bravura musical number marred only by the composer Danny Elfman's insistence on recycling the same string of notes again and again.

Film Notes

Corpse Bride

Directed by: Tim Burton

Starring: Johnny Depp (Victor Van Dort, voice), Helena Bonham Carter, (Corpse Bride, voice), Emily Watson (Victoria Everglot, voice), Tracey Ullman (Nell Van Dort/Hildegarde, voice), Paul Whitehouse (William Van Dort/Mayhew/Paul The Head Waiter, voice), Joanna Lumley (Maudeline Everglot, voice), Albert Finney (Finnis Everglot, voice), Richard E. Grant (Barkis Bittern, voice)

Running time: 76 minutes

Taiwan Release: today


It all ends happily ever after, of course, though not before Burton and company have gathered the dead with the undead. The anticlerical bit gives the story a piquant touch, while the reunion between the corpses and the ostensibly living further swells the numbers of zombies that have lately run amok in the movies. Cinema's reinvigorated fixation with the living dead suggests that we are in the grip of an impossible longing, or perhaps it's just another movie cycle running its course. Whatever the case, there is something heartening about Burton's love for bones and rot here, if only because it suggests, despite some recent evidence, that he is not yet ready to abandon his own dark kingdom.

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