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Corpse Bride (2005): ***

Directed by Tim Burton & Mike Johnson

I like Tim Burton's Corpse Bride better than Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. But for me, that's not saying all that much. I didn't really like Nightmare Before Christmas very much—I thought the story was awkward, disjointed, and didn't really add up to anything, and the songs, while catchy, did little to help. I did, however, think that Nightmare Before Christmas was beautiful to simply watch.

Corpse Bride suffers from some of the same problems as Nightmare Before Christmas, although not as many, and if anything it is even more beautiful to simply watch. The animation is the best puppet animation I've seen yet, and the set and character designs are all off the chart in terms of greatness.

The movie is also generally a lot of fun. The characters are likeable, the settings are imaginative and enjoyable, and it's just a pretty good time at the movies. What I appreciated most about the story, though, was how it didn't take an easy approach to the material. Victor Van Dort and Victoria Everglott have been arranged to be married without ever meeting. But to both their surprise, when they do meet the day before the wedding they actually do fall in love. Similarly, when the Corpse Bride Emily becomes involved in the mix, she and Victor find themselves actually falling in love with each other for real. The movie sets up a love triangle in which one character is going to have to make a very painful sacrifice to ensure the hapiness of the other two. And, indeed, at various points all three of these characters are willing to make that sacrifice for the others. It is not an "easy" movie in terms of morality—and even in the end you're left wondering, was there any way where all three of these characters could have gotten what they really wanted?

Those are the good parts of the film. The bad parts are that there are four songs in the film. I only really liked the final one in the film (the wedding preparation one), and one of them is absolutely unecessary, and is sung by Talking Animal Sidekicks. Which brings me to the second thing that's bad about this film: why oh why are there Talking Animal Sidekicks in a film like this? And who thinks it's still funny to have a character talk like Peter Lorre?

There is also some inconsistency in the "rules" of beind dead in this movie. At one point a character drops dead, and later you see his soul in the dead town. But at another point a character suddenly dies, and seems to turn into a walking corpse. In fact, most of the dead in the film seem to actually be living in their corpses. If you dug up the graveyard outside this town would it be empty because the dead are all partying in their world? Also, sometimes you need a special spell to leave the world of the dead, and sometimes you can just seemingly walk there and back. Very strange.

While the good parts of the movie do outweigh the bad and I did very much enjoy myself while the film was running (hence a three-star review), ultimately it is rather light and fluffy and forgettable. It seemed like it could have used just one more wash through the script machine before it was made, which always surprises me with animated films—especially stop-motion—due to the enormous time investments they take. You would have thought that at some point along someone would have pointed out the faults and they would have tried to fix them, right?


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