Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is indeed the full and proper title of this production. Why he needed his name in the title I do not know but that's how it is.
Director: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
Screenplay: John August, Pamela Pettler
Country: United States
MPAA rating: PG
Synopsis: A bumbling bridegroom blunders into the netherworld after practicing his vows on an eligible but dead young lady, and risks being a no-show at his wedding.
There are no spoilers here
The story centres around Victor, a shy fishmonger's son who has a terrible time rehearsing his arranged marriage of (parental) convenience to Victoria, the daughter of penniless aristocrats. After setting his future mother-in-law on fire, he runs away from the debacle and starts practicing alone in the woods.
His frustrated efforts to learn his vows finally being crowned with success, he ends up being dragged off to the underworld after accidentally making a buried corpse think that he's detached, err, taken its hand in marriage. Said underworld is populated by a bunch of comical characters that would lead one to believe that Charon swapped his barge for a Victorian sideshow riverboat. Emily, his new bride, is, of course, blue and a bit on the thin side, and Victor has no intention of sticking around to consummate or otherwise let the marriage interfere with his natural life and lifetime.
Most of the rest of the film is spent on Victor's quest to return to his actual bride and Emily's worries as a jilted, dead bride. Victoria, predictably, goes slightly mad and ends up with a replacement suitor who has a history and agenda of his own. All this builds up to a climax and ending that's not as good as the rest of the film, which has some nice twists, but is nonetheless moving and well-presented. The dialogue is snappy, witty, and dotted with terrible, terrible "dead" puns.
After all the cool and fancy but not terribly soulful stuff with computer animation, it was nice to see some old-school (but hardly old-fashioned) stop motion animation on the menu. On a technical level, Corpse Bride may be the best yet of its kind. It's probably as state of the art as stop motion animation will ever be. While the gorgeous animated characters steal the visual show, it also features some wonderful static artwork. The characters aren't as uniform as in The Nightmare Before Christmas but range from fragile porcelain dolls to intimidating figures that could have come from Gerald Scarfe's pen.
Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter provide the voices for the star characters, Victor and Emily. Emily Watson as Victor's not-dead (as opposed to undead) bride Victoria completes the trio of main characters with classic Victor-Victoria-Victorian names. Other star-studded-cast members include Tracey Ullman, Christopher Lee, and Joanna Lumley. Together they provide an impressive performance.
I was pleasantly surprised by this film, given that I didn't think much of Nightmare and expected even less of this feature. I'd watch it again just for the amazing score (signed by Danny Elfman) and musical scenes--the parts that I desperately want to fast-forward through in most films that have them. Though Corpse Bride comes out a bit on the short side at the expense of character development and the plot isn't a shining beacon of originality, it was a real pleasure to watch and I cannot but recommend it for all but the youngest audiences.
Film critic style rating, stars'n'all: * * * * (4/5 stars)