It’s Movie Time: Corpse Bride

As always, Spoiler Alert.

Corpse Bride is a stop-motion animation film by Tim Burton, one which I suspect many would consider to be a lesser cousin to The Nightmare Before Christmas, his first entry into the genre. Personally, I disagree. Nightmare is a great movie, yes, but the story it tells is a bit frenzied, while there’s a sweetness to Corpse Bride that’s hard to resist.

At the heart of Corpse Bride is a love story. Victor (Johnny Depp) and Victoria (Emily Watson) are betrothed to be married. It’s a marriage of convenience for their parents – his for the status and hers for the money – and the couple has never actually met prior to their wedding rehearsal. That endearing sweetness I mentioned? It makes its first appearance in the scene where Victor and Victoria meet. Victor is playing the piano, Victoria compliments him, and the two have a gentle, heartwarming conversation.

Victor, being a nervous sort, becomes overwhelmed during the rehearsal, and runs away. While practicing his vows in the forest, he places the wedding ring on what he thinks is a twig, but turns out to actually be the skeletal remains of Emily (Helena Bonham Carter), the titular corpse bride who, after her death, decided to remain where she was to wait for her true love. She claims a reluctant Victor as that person.

Once the shock has worn off, Victor feels badly for the panicked way he reacted to Emily’s unexpected appearance, and apologises via a piano duet, another delightfully understated moment. I suppose one of the reasons I like Corpse Bride so much is because of the way the characters bond over music. Music has always been a huge part of my life. Musical incompatibility was a factor in the end of my marriage – when my husband would come home and I’d have the music I liked playing, he’d immediately walk to the stereo to turn it off, which drove me nuts. And musical compatibility has been one of the cornerstones of my relationship with Ron, who is only too happy to join me in new music listening parties and on trips centred around concerts.

True to Burton’s preference to work with the same people from project to project, Corpse Bride features the music of Danny Elfman. This is normally a great thing, and while the piano solo and duet are beautiful, and Remains of the Day is a jaunty blast, most of the film’s music is either derivative of what he wrote for Nightmare, or honestly kinda forgettable. It’s a bit disappointing, given the usual caliber of Elfman’s music, but the standouts are so good they make up for the songs that aren’t so much.

But my favourite aspect by far of Corpse Bride is a negative, in that Victoria and Emily are never pitted against each other. In true romance tradition, they’re both pursuing the same man, but the story never devolves into one women attacking or vilifying the other. In fact, during the movie’s climax, in the middle of a confrontation between Victor and the film’s villain, Emily can be seen with her arm protectively around Victoria’s shoulders, even pulling her to safety at one point. There’s actually a great deal of respect shown between them over the course of the entire film – something refreshing for a love story.

‘Refreshing’ could be used to describe Corpse Bride as a whole, in fact. It’s visually interesting, tells a charming story, has characters it’s easy to care about, and avoids devolving into stereotypes and tropes.

That’s more than most live-action films have on offer.

To see other posts in my venture to watch my movie collection in alphabetical(ish) order, click here.

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