Directed by Mike Johnson and Tim Burton
September 7, 2005 (Venice) / September 23, 2005 (United States) / October 13, 2005 (United Kingdom)
- Victor Van Dort –Johnny Depp
- Emily the Corpse Bride-Helena Bonham Carter
- Victoria Everglot-Emily Watson
- Nell Van Dort (Victor’s mother) / Hildegarde (Everglot maid)-Tracey Ullman
- William Van Dort (Victor’s father) / Mayhew (the Van Dort coachman) / Paul the Head Waiter-Paul Whitehouse
- Maudeline Everglot (Victoria’s mother)-Joanna Lumley
- Finis Everglot (Victoria’s father) / Grandfather Everglot (Finis’ deceased grandfather)-Albert Finney
- Barkis Bittern-Richard E. Grant
- Pastor Galswells-Christopher Lee
- Elder Gutknecht-Michael Gough
- General Bonesapart-Deep Roy
- Bonejangles-Danny Elfman
A man betrothed to a woman he never met accidentally marries a dead woman while practicing his lines in the woods. Oops!
This is a classic and at times surprisingly romantic animated film. Corpse Bride is way sweeter than the premise would lead you to believe it could be. Death and marriage and a bride rising from the dead does not usually equal cute. At least when you toss in the bride rising from the dead part. But they create here a sweet tale of a timid groom and that of a tragic bride and of doing the right thing despite what you want.
Our lead character of Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) is a nervous and timid man who is the son of nouveau riche fish merchants and is being forced into an arranged marriage with a woman named Victoria who is the daughter of poor aristocrats. Victoria’s parents hope to use that arranged marriage to stabilize their financial situation with a dowry for her.
Victor and Victoria are instantly attracted to each other, but Victor is still afraid of the future. After repeatedly flubbing his vows while rehearsing, the action really begins when Victor is in the woods and finally gets his vows correct. His mistake comes when he slips the ring on what he believes to be a normal tree branch that is in actuality a finger sticking up from the ground.
After that we are swept into a fanciful underworld where the dead have a life not that dissimilar to what they may have had on the surface. In a rather upbeat song and dance number we get the condensed version of the titular bride’s backstory. Years ago, on the night she planned to elope, Emily the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter) was murdered by an unidentified person who stole her jewels.
In the mix is the Lord Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant) who just shows up at the wedding practice and nobody really seems to question why. I would think a stranger at a wedding would eventually be discovered especially since there are no more than seven people that should actually be there. No guests were invited from what I can tell. You have the two sets of parents, the married to be couple, and Pastor Galswells (Christopher Lee). Bittern makes eight.
The environment is rendered (at least of the living) is rendered in bluish/gray-ish hues. It is drab and dreary and as depressing as many of the characters in the character can be. The only thing bright and colorful in the human world is a butterfly seen at the beginning of the film that moves through the town as they set up the initial story of Victor.
The underworld is much more colorful and vibrant. While not striking, to me it does look brighter and a touch happier. In their death they are actually living. There we meet such characters as Elder Gutknecht (Michael Gough) who is the de facto leader, General Bonesapart (Deep Roy) who is a Napolean parody, and Bonejangles (Danny Elfman) who is a lounge singing skeleton. They are all more full of life than the living.
Lord Barkis is the villain of the story. He is slimy and slick and manipulative but overall he is a charming con artist. He woos women and then robs them of their dowry. He has that badguy charm.
Victor’s parents seem to genuinely care about him while Victoria’s parents see her as nothing more than a tool. She is their meal ticket out of poverty as they are flat broke and living well beyond their means. The arrival of the broke Barkis makes them think they have a new and better path to riches and the status they desire.
One thing about this film is that you can genuinely believe that Victor could go off with the Corpse Bride. They build up the relationship with sweet moments such as Emily gifting Victor with his deceased dog that he loved. But at the end of the film you can also see that there is genuine feeling between Victor and Victoria. What I am saying is both are viable options in the framing of the story. There is not one that is an obvious fit.
At 76 minutes there is a little room for fluff and general extra and fortunately they had none here. The story moves steady but not at a rapid pace to the looney climax where the dead walk the Earth and Bittern gets what is coming to him.
Corpse Bride is a wonderful animated feature. It is a sweet romantic story with plenty of dark things in it that should not be cute. Watch it!