[Movie Review] Corpse Bride (2005) ★★★★★

Victor and Emily and Scarps in Corpse Bride 2005

Corpse Bride is a macabre tale full of deadly fun and ghostly romance. 

Corpse Bride is a stop-motion animation movie with fantasy, horror, romance, humor and songs and dancing. Although it sounds macabre and sometimes it is and the themes address death and dying, it’s a romantic feel good movie for young and old alike, with a lighthearted touch. With exceptional animation and craftsmanship, a compelling tale and a strange adventure, this film is a joy to watch.

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Victor Van Dort and Victoria Everglot are soon to be married in an arranged marriage by their parents. Victor’s parents are rich fishmongers and Victoria’s parents are nobility without money. Both Victor and Victoria don’t want to be married to each other because they don’t know each other. But when they first meet they do like each other and Victor becomes very anxious. In the forest he practices his vows and puts the ring on a small branch. But that branch turns out to be the dead finger of Emily the Corpse Bride who was secretly buried there. She was murdered a while back when she was waiting for her love to elope together and now she thinks she and Victor are married and takes him to the Land of the Dead. Meanwhile Victoria goes looking for him, but Lord Barkis Bittern wants her hand in marriage. 

Why you should watch it

Corpse Bride first of all, looks absolutely stunning. The characters and the stop-motion is of enormous craftsmanship. The settings, set designs and art decoration is so detailed and rich that the Victorian world comes to life in a magical way. While the Victorian town is very gloomy and grey, the Land of the Dead in contrast is very colorful and cheerful. The skeletons dance and sing and they drink and the dead are having fun. It’s a big contrast that works really well and shows that sometimes the living do make the world are somber and sad place. 

To brighten up the Land of the Dead even more, there are songs that add playfulness to the story, while it’s also a means to explain some situations. Especially the Land of the Living needs some cheering up. 

Every character has its own details that enhance their personality. Some characters are tragic like Emily and some are annoying like the parents or arrogant like Lord Barkis and some are very funny like the butler and others. Victor and Victoria are the most ‘normal’ characters who are the anchors to the story. And then there’s Scraps, Victor’s dog whom he lost years ago and that is for sure a great happy reunion. The characters are brought to life in a very imaginative way. Most of them are quirky types that aren’t meant to be very realistic but more comical and they add to that special atmosphere that holds between a dark fairytale while acting like over the top real characters. To add even more fun, a fun friendly maggot lives inside the skull of Emily and is her companion. And then there’s the waiter in The Land of the Dead who is only a head. A spider is a seamstress and the very old and kind ruler of the Underworld Elder Gutknecht has a very long white beard. These details do make the story come to life and the characters pop off the screen. 

In the core it’s a very romantic tale of love, betrayal and hurt and it truly resembles a Victorian love story and a Victorian ghost story all in one. By mere accident Victor is taken to the Land of the Dead by Emily, but tricks her to go to the Land of the Living to find Victoria and tell her how he feels. But now Emily is for the second time betrayed and takes him back with her. Then Victor feels bad and learns about Victoria’s impending marriage to Barkis and decides to marry Emily, but has to do so in the Land of the Living and then die. So Emily can find peace. It’s all very dramatic and like a real romantic tale that seems to end very badly. But of course in the end everything turns out well, after there’s a big sinister twist. 

These are the very strong foundations for a wonderful, magical story that is tragic but full of adventure and of mystery and a lot of romance. Because Emily can’t find peace before she finds out who killed her. Victor proves a real gentleman. Although he now loves Victoria, he also feels for Emily and wants to help her. That adds a lot of positive but complicated romance to the story, while Victoria does her best to find Victor and help him. But a macabre mystery romance needs a villain and Lord Barkis is perfect for the job. He’s unbearable and terribly arrogant and mean. 

The three heroes of the story have to overcome all sorts of obstacles, find ways to solve the mystery and make everyone happy but in the end succeed brilliantly. It’s a beautiful tale about love and sacrifice and selflessness. 

The mix between the macabre and humor and romance is just amazingly done and results in a very fun but thrilling and exciting tale. It creates an atmosphere that is both heavy and serious with murder and tragic lives but at the same time a lighthearted vibe embellishes this dark tale. The happy ending with the mystery solved and with justice for Emily and even the Victorian gloomy atmosphere is a bit more brightened. 

My favorite part

I love the way Emily was designed. Her character first seems to be evil, but then she’s just a very tragic girl to whom has been done a great injustice at what should have been the happiest time of her life. And she really does care for Victor. The gift she gives him, his dog Scraps is a wonderful moment for all of them. Not only the designs are very well detailed but so are the storylines and the characters. When old servant Mayhem is coughing a lot he soon is to visit the Land of the Dead forever. And when he does his cheeks are again full of color and he’s not cold and coughing anymore. It’s a very fun detail and the whole film is full of these richly detailed moments. 


Rating: ★★★★★

Fun factor: ★★★★☆

Epic factor: ★★★★★

Scare factor: ★★★☆☆

Originality factor: ★★★★★

Entertainment factor: ★★★★★

Cast and crew

Corpse Bride is directed by Tim Burton and written by John August, Caroline Thompson, Pamela Pettler, Tim Burton, Carlos Grangel. It stars Johnny Depp (Victor Van Dort), Helena Bonham Carter (Emily), Emily Watson (Victoria Everglot), Christopher Lee (Pastor Galswells), Richard E. Grant (Barkis Bittern), Michael Gough (Elder Gutknecht), Jane Horrocks (Spider), Enn Reitel (Maggot), Tracey Ullman (Nell Van Dort), Paul Whitehouse (William Van Dort), Joanna Lumley (Maudeline Everglot) and Albert Finney (Finis Everglot).

Duration: 77 minutes. Music by: Danny Elfman. Cinematography: Pete Kozachik. Edited by: Jonathan Lucas, Chris Lebenzon. Produced by: Tim Burton, Allison Abbate. Production company: Tim Burton Productions, Laika Entertainment, Patalex II Productions. Distributed by: Warner Bros, Pictures.

Check the trailer below

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