You can almost imagine a sign at the entrance to Tim Burton's brain: Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe. For years now, Burton has been pulling items off the shelves, dusting away the cobwebs (or not dusting away the cobwebs) and sending his quaintly lurid fantasies out into a world that finds him both creepy and endearing. And the guy shows no signs of running low on inventory. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was as deliciously weird as anything he's ever done. And Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (as if it could have come from anybody else) makes a nice companion piece to The Nightmare Before Christmas, which also employed stop-motion animation to navigate the murky realm between life and death. A gothic romance in which an English gentleman finds himself married to a dead woman, Corpse Bride should appeal to both the dearly beloved and the dearly departed.
Whether it will appeal to children is another matter. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which all but rubbed kids' love for candy in their sweet little faces, made you wonder whether Burton, who doesn't have any, even likes children. And Corpse Bride makes few allowances to impressionable youth, which is exactly why non-impressionable youth will love it. Like all Burton's collaborations with Johnny Depp, the movie features a lovable misfit, Victor Van Dort (voiced by Depp), whose nouveau-riche parents are marrying him off to the daughter of the aristocratic-but-broke Everglots. Victoria Everglot (voiced by Emily Watson) is also a lovable misfit. And Victor and Victoria might live happily ever after in their Victorian manse if Victor didn't accidentally (while practicing his marriage vows) pledge his troth to a woman who, though still beautiful in a cadaverous kind of way, has clearly seen better days.
Voiced by Burton's own wife, Helena Bonham Carter, the Corpse Bride is awfully sweet for a dead person, and Burton lavishes all his artistic gifts upon her ' long beautiful hair, large beautiful eyes and long beautiful legs, one of which falls off on occasion. There's also a Jiminy Cricket-like maggot that appears whenever her eye pops out of its socket, delivering one-liners in a Peter Lorre voice. Compared to The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride is surprisingly funny, the gallows humor good for any number of queasy laughs. And it knows how to party. When the movie shifts to the netherworld ' rendered in living color, as opposed to the myriad shades of gray above ' it becomes a hellzapoppin' danse macabre, the skeletons putting on quite a show. There may not be much meat on dem bones, but the smiles are a mile wide. And the joints are jumpin'.