Sunday, March 16, 2014

Corpse Bride [2005]

With this hand, I will lift your sorrows. Your cup will never be empty, for I will be your wine. With this candle, I will light your way into darkness. With this ring, I ask you to be mine.
-The Wedding Vows

Where do I start... Well, Corpse Bride is the story of young Victor van Dort, a shy man in an arranged marriage with a woman named Victoria Everglot. However, at his wedding rehearsal, he gets nervous and messes up his vows. Humiliated, he runs away into the forest and practices the vows by himself. He places the wedding ring on the 'finger' of a dry bush, which actually does turn out to be a finger. Out of the ground rises the corpse of a dead bride who declares they are now married. It's based on a Jewish Folk Tale, and is much better than my shaky synopsis makes it sound.

First off, the film is gorgeous. The scenery may be drab and grey, but it's such a marvel to look at. I love the look and feel of stop-motion, and if you asked me why, I'd probably pop this movie into the player. And the music is terrific. There's a jazzy, danse-macabre sound associated with the land of the dead, which makes copious use of 'bony' sounding xylophone and saxaphone. That's all well and good, and really fun to listen to. For me though, the really gorgeous tracks are the ones that repeat the main theme heard in the opening credits. It's light, twinkly, and really brings out the more touching side of the plot. Danny Elfman makes very good use of celesta in those tracks.

Victor and Victoria off to a good start.
There are some problems though, most notably with the opening song 'According to Plan'. According to Plan is a fun song to listen to, and it does a good job of setting up the story. The problem is that it is sung by Victor and Victoria's parents who are not nice people. Victor's parents just care about climbing the social ladder, and Victoria's parents are snobs who are marrying off their daughter because they are going bankrupt. In musicals (Corpse Bride only has four musical numbers, but it still counts) you usually introduce your hero- as well as set up the plot- in the opening song. You know, instead of the parents tromping around Hurumphing, the song could have been about what Victor and Victoria felt about the marriage.

Victor trying to boost Emily's mood after he said something
tactless. Again.
Another issue is well, the land of the dead. What is it exactly? It's neither Heaven or Hell, but some kind of limbo? It's just like being alive except that you're decomposing. The end of the movie implies some kind of eternal rest, but what exactly is the land of the dead for? It's not like in Odd Thomas where ghosts stay here because they have unfinished business (Though it does seem like once you let go of this world, you ascend to a higher plane of existance or something). They just kinda dance around and run a cabaret.

And there's a stereotypical jerk priest. It doesn't bug me too much, since the dead people at the end seem to respect churches and such, but still. [eyeroll] On the bright side, Christopher Lee voices the vile vicar, and you can't go wrong with Christopher Lee. :)

Now that I've gone on about what I didn't like, I can feel free to gush about all that was right with this movie.

Despite his unfortunate tendency to say the wrong thing at the worst possible time, I really liked Victor. He truly wanted to do the right thing in the difficult situation he found himself in, and he had a sense of responsibility towards both the women he found himself engaged to. While the film satirizes the unromantic, practical view of marriage, it also shows that there is a certain responsibility that comes with marriage, and that it isn't something to be taken lightly.

Victoria was a pretty good character. Like Cosette, she gets a lot of flak for being the one who got chosen in the end, but I liked her. She's shy and quiet, but she does have a will of her own, and takes things into her own hands at various points in the plot.

Emily- the titular 'Corpse Bride' had a good character arc, and her plight was really heart-wrenching. She did the right thing in the end despite it not being what she really wanted, and I really loved the development and conflict in her character.

The film has a very touching and selfless ending that- for me- almost made up for that incredibly cheesy scene of the villain walking down the hallway laughing evilly. Almost. Oh yeah, I suppose I forgot to talk about the film's villain. Well, he had understandable motivation, and you're invested enough in the characters to want him to get what he deserves, but... Yeah. He walked down a hallway laughing evilly. He's a bad guy who puts the B in subtle.

The Verdict: B+
It was kind of hard to watch this movie without constantly comparing it to The Nightmare Before Christmas. Nightmare was a terrific, clever, fun ride, and I think it's a better movie. But Corpse Bride has very genuine heart and told a moving story with a beautiful ending.

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