Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride
by Tim Burton (dir)
Review by Drew Bittner
Warner Bros movie
Date: Sept 16 / Show Official Info /
Johnny Depp .... Victor Van Dort
Helena Bonham Carter .... Corpse Bride
Emily Watson .... Victoria Everglot
Tracey Ullman .... Nell Van Dort/Hildegarde
Paul Whitehouse .... William Van Dort/Mayhew/Paul The Head Waiter
Joanna Lumley .... Maudeline Everglot
Albert Finney .... Finnis Everglot
Richard E. Grant .... Barkis Bittern
Christopher Lee .... Pastor Galswells
Michael Gough .... Elder Gutknecht
Jane Horrocks .... Black Widow Spider/Mrs. Plum
Deep Roy .... General Bonesapart
Danny Elfman .... Bonejangles
In Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride, hapless Victor van Dort (Depp) is betrothed to a girl he has never met. The wedding is arranged to bring respectability to his nouveau riche fishmonger parents, Nell (Tracey Ullman) and William (Whitehouse) and money to his noble-but-impoverished inlaws, Finnis (Finney) and Maudeline (Lumley) Everglot.
He meets the beautiful Victoria (Watson) while playing the Everglots' piano; their duet implies that it is love at first sight for both young people. However, Victor cannot manage to get through his vows during rehearsal, so he is ordered out into the woods to practice. By mistake, he places the ring upon the finger of a desiccated twig... only to watch in terror as the necrotic Corpse Bride (Bonham Carter) rises, answering his (pretend) vow with "I do."
The Corpse Bride is no fiend from hell nor skulking ghoul; she's a beautiful (if decayed) girl whose one chance at love ended in murder. With Victor, she sees a chance to have her unlife continue happily... but there are complications, not least of them being that Victor loves Victoria.
On a trip back to the World of the Living, Victor tries to trick the Corpse Bride into letting him stay, but it doesn't work out. She brings him back to the colorful, rambunctious World of the Dead, where her story is told in song and dance by Bonejangles (Elfman) and a chorus line of skeletons. Victor realizes he has hurt the Corpse Bride without meaning to, and he makes amends.
Meanwhile, the desperate Everglots have been bedazzled by the elegant-but-sinister Barkis Bittern. He seeks to wed Victoria if the unreliable Victor does not return immediately, an offer the money-mad Everglots hope to take advantage of.
The climax involves an "invasion" of sorts from the World of the Dead, some mixed messages among the main characters and a startling revelation or two.
Though unlikely to become a perennial favorite like Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas, The Corpse Bride is a charming, well-made story featuring enchanting characters. Victor is a likeable young man whose worst failing is his nervousness; Depp infuses him with verbal stumbles and a rich inner life, as he tumbles from his depressing, mundane life into the whirlwind of the afterlife. Victoria likewise is a delightful young woman; Watson finds several ways to reveal how Victoria's innocence belies an inner toughness and devotion. As the Corpse Bride, Bonham Carter is wonderful as a decayed but delicate woman who was brutally wronged but cannot help hoping her chance at happiness has finally arrived. Some of her scenes are truly heartbreaking.
Much has been said about the contrast between the colorless World of the Living and the day-glo spectacle of the World of the Dead, such that little more need be added. However, it sure seems fun to go to one's final reward in Burton's universe...
With appearances by Christopher Lee, Joanna Lumley, Jane Horrocks and especially Michael Gough as the skeletal sage Elder Gutknecht, the movie is well worth seeing, perhaps with someone you love.