Tim Burton has become reknowned for his movies about the weird and the macabre. Sometimes weird, FUNNY and macabre.
And "Corpse Bride" has all three qualities, mixing in the bizarre and wacky with a bittersweet love story. It also has the sort of goofy ickiness that really expert haunted houses have -- you're enjoying the ghouls and skeletons too much to care who it's aimed at. This is an "underground" film in the best sense of the word.
Victor (Johnny Depp) is at the rehearsal for his arranged wedding, when he forgets his vows. Not a good omen. He runs out and rehearses it by himself, and ends up slipping the ring on the finger of a dead girl, Emily (Helena Bonham Carter). But Emily, who died tragically, falls in love with Victor and considers herself married to him.
Now Victor is trapped in the underworld, which is a surprisingly cheery, upbeat place when you consider everyone is dead. He tries to find his way back to the world of the living, but soon finds himself more drawn to the tragic Emily. Now he must make the ultimate choice: Will he return (for as long as he lives) to his arranged bride, or stay in the underworld with the Corpse Bride?
You'd think a movie about dead people would be depressing. At the very least, dark. But surprisingly "Corpse Bride" is neither -- instead, Burton has crafted a sweet, enchanting little love story where one of the people happens to be dead, and which is set in the underworld. There's nothing frightening about it. If anything, it's enchanting.
Is the plot original? Heck no -- boil it down, and you have a boy-meets-girl-while-engaged-to-another-girl story. But it's the delivery that's charming, from the funny dialogue ("Play dead!") to the colorful inhabitants of the underworld (like the pirate, or the intimidating minister). The macabre humour and song-and-dance numbers add to the charm of this world, where the dead are more alive than the living.
And the voice actors seal the deal; what could have been merely funny becomes touching, in their hands.Johnny Depp brings the timid, tremulous Victor to life, and makes his dilemma believable, while Carter makes us look past protruding bones and bluish skin, to the sweet romantic Emily was. The only problem is that moronic maggot -- it's an annoying distraction.
It's not quite on the level of cult classic "The Nightmare Before Christmas," but "Corpse Bride" is still a hilarious, bittersweet little story with a macabre twist. Delightful.