THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


The title character in Tim Burtonís Corpse Bride is quite a sight to behold. She is dressed in a decaying bridal gown. Her skin is asphyxiation blue. The side of her cheek has been torn away, allowing teeth to show through. A similar gash exposes several of her ribs. One of her eyes pops out and a worm (who looks suspiciously like Peter Lorre) pops out. Sheís a beauty alright.

How, then, does this deceased woman become a bride again? It actually begins with Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp), a timid gentleman who is due to participate in an arranged marriage to Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson). The nuptials are a nerve-wracking occasion for Victor Ė partly because he doesnít know his intended, and partly because his future in-laws have clearly arranged the marriage for their own financial gain. Once Victor meets Victoria, though, the two find they actually have an attraction to one another. Love quickly blossoms.

At the rehearsal, it becomes painfully clear that Victor cannot remember his vows, so he takes a walk in the woods to practice them aloud. He slips the ring onto what he thinks is a tree branch, only to discover that itís really the decrepit finger of the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter). Having been married before and left for dead by her husband, she is thrilled to be married again and forces poor Victor to live up to his ďpromise.Ē This means he has to tell Victoria what happened and deal with the aftermath when both sets of parents freak out. Meanwhile, the smug Barkis Bittern (Richard E. Grant) steps in to comfort Victorís true love in her time of shock.

Corpse Bride was created with 3-dimensional stop-motion animation, just like Tim Burtonís classic The Nightmare Before Christmas. This process has neither the fluidity of traditional hand-drawn animation, nor the realism of computer-generation animation. This, of course, makes it perfect for the kinds of weird, Halloween-y stories Tim Burton likes to tell. There is something about the sheer unreality of the medium that gives it an atmosphere all its own.

That atmosphere works well with the macabre humor. The Corpse Bride takes Victor to the land of the undead, where every resident has some kind of bizarre injury. One guy has a knife stuck through his head; another sports a sword through his midsection. My favorite is the man who literally splits himself in two, with organs hanging out when he does so. This is the sort of dark, slightly demented thing Burton does best. The film also marks another successful pairing with composer Danny Elfman, whose score is the musical equivalent of Burtonís macabre humor.

If thereís a downside, itís that the animation occasionally overwhelms the story. A musical production number involving dancing skeletons is so dazzling that I wasnít paying attention to the words, which detailed the Corpse Brideís backstory. (Thank goodness for video, I guess.) The Nightmare Before Christmas had a very clever story that stood out among the animation; one accentuated the other. That doesnít quite happen this time Ė the film doesnít have a plot so much as a situation.

Tim Burtonís Corpse Bride is nevertheless worth seeing for its wonderfully weird sense of imagination. Because they are a few steps removed from reality, animated movies are capable of dazzling us in ways that live-action movies canít. Burton and his crew have once again challenged the medium and come with something appealingly unique.

( out of four)

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is rated PG for some scary images and action, and brief mild language. The running time is 1 hour and 18 minutes.

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