Young Victor Van Dort (voice of Johnny Depp) is to marry Victoria Everglot (voice of Emily Watson). He goes with his stuffy parents Nell and William (voices of Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehouse) to the bride’s house for the wedding rehearsal. Victor is not very keen on getting married, and neither is Victoria but they have a chat at the piano while the parents (the Everglots’ are the voices of Joanna Lumley and Albert Finney) are preparing things and the young people get on quite well. Just when it seems the marriage might go ahead well for them, Victor fumbles his lines during practice and cannot get the marriage vows straight. So the vicar sends him off to the dark forest to practice. While there he stumbles and the ring he is carrying slides onto what seems like a twig. Instead it is the skeleton hand of a mostly decomposed Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter) with a cheerful maggot popping out of one eye socket, who had been buried in her wedding dress. She declares that she and Victor are now married and the fun begins.
This rather ingenious animated gothic treat comes from director Tim Burton (and Mike Johnson). Burton is a master story-teller of the fantastic (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Big Fish, etc.) and The Corpse Bride, a musical spoof on old fashioned (arranged because of financial circumstances) marriage, played out between the undead and the living. It might also be a tale about how purgatory – and romantic movies for that matter – functions. Everything is resolved, and peace comes to the Corpse Bride when she makes a sacrifice for Victor. She sets him free, and in so doing, frees herself from the bonds of an underworld, a kind of half-way place for souls who haven’t quite got things right yet.
The animation is stylized and clever, the voices full of character, the sound and music complimentary.
The Corpse Bride is a fun movie and probably has a lot more going on than I have mentioned here. Looking back at Big Fish, about how a story uses metaphors to stand in for truth, we learn that a story might be true even if it isn’t factual. So, what’s true about The Corpse Bride, do you think? What’s the metaphor? Maybe we all need to be content with what we have when the alternative might be … a corpse…. Happy Halloween!
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