The Johnny Depp Archive

Corpse Bride (2005)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Christopher Lee, Albert Finney, Joanna Lumley, Emily Watson, Paul Whitehouse, Tracey Ullmann, Richard E Grant, Jane Horrocks, Enn Reitel

Directed by: Tim Burton

Rating: 1 2 3 4 5

Johnny Depp as Victor Van Dort in Tim Burton's Corspe Bride

Hallowe'en is coming up fast, and where better to spend Goth Christmas than in the skeletal embrace of the Corpse Bride? This delightful tale of romance beyond the grave resurrects everything that's marvellous about Tim Burton's filmmaking: the dark, gothic beauty that made Sleepy Hollow so gorgeous, the fantastical magic of Big Fish, the black, twisted humour of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the tear jerking pathos of Edward Scissorhands are all brought together through painstaking stop frame animation, Nightmare Before Christmas style.

Christopher Lee voices the terrifying Pastor Gallswell in Tim Burton's  Corpse Bride

Corpse Bride tells the story of Victor Van Dort, a shy, sensitive and pathologically clumsy young man voiced charmingly by Johnny Depp (and looking rather like him too - albeit stretched over the bony frame of Jack Skelington). His rich, social climbing fishmonger parents (Tracey Ullman and Johnny's old pal Paul Whitehouse) have somehow engineered a marriage between their son and the daughter of the local impoverished gentry, Lord and Lady Everglot (a marvellously fruity Albert Finney and icily supercilious Joanna Lumley). Despite their nightmare parents, the sweet little couple really rather take to each other, but at their wedding rehearsal nervous Victor is so intimidated by the frankly terrifying Pastor Gallswells (superbly voiced by Christopher Lee, in full on booming, mellifluous majesty) that he mucks up his vows, sets fire to his wife's mother and escapes into the woods in embarrassment. Where, determined to get his vows down pat, he accidentally finds himself married to a corpse.

Tim Burton movie or Alice Cooper show? The dancing skeletons perform.

And so he finds himself sharing the abode of his ethereal but somewhat decaying bride, Emily (Helena Bonham Carter): the land of the dead - a cross between a set from Oliver! and the Alice Cooper Show, complete with dancing skeletons, singing spiders and an inexhaustible supply of bony visual gags. Only one problem though - Victor's still alive and still in love with Victoria. Will he make it back to the land of the living in time to prevent her marrying the evil Lord Barkis (Richard E Grant)? Oooooh, you'll just have to go see the movie, won't you?

Chopsticks for Victor Van Dort and his skeletal bride

Filmed in a muted palette of grey, blue and black which perfectly reflects both the class bound, repressive, Victorian world of the Van Dorts and Everglots and the gloomy shades of the underworld (although it must be said that the dead seem to have a lot more fun than the living), Corpse Bride looks absolutely gorgeous and, like Wallace and Gromit, is 'living' proof that puppet animation still has so much to offer. A cross between the elegant heroes of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Terry Gilliam's squat cartoon figures from the Monty Python shows, the puppets themselves are beautifully created. From Victor's floppy fringe and boogling 8-ball eyes to his bride's visible ribs and back molars, from Finnis Everglot's stretched, fake smile to Lord Barkis's marvellous quiff and Buzz Lightyear chin, the puppets display the same exquisite attention to detail that prevails throughout the film (Victor's dead dog Scraps is adorable, and I particularly like the make of piano Victor plays - Harryhausen).

Scraps the dog in Corpse Bride

The vocal talents are perfectly matched to the characters too (sometimes in looks too, scarily enough): alongside star turns from the likes of Depp, Finney and Lee, we're also treated to Chocolate Factory Oompa Loompa Deep Roy as the diminutive Napoleon Bonesapart, a Mexican maggot courtesy of Enn Reitel and a plethora of spooky figures voiced by the ever versatile Jane Horrocks.

The Corpse Bride herself, voiced by Helena Bonham Carter

Probably the most Tim Burton-ish film Tim Burton's ever made (only in his crazy imagination could the return of the living dead become a source of joyous celebration), Corpse Bride is charming, funny, magical, riotously creative and at times heartstoppingly beautiful. A true labour of love that entrances and amuses in equal measures, it's a sheer delight from start to finish, captivating the imagination and the heart. It's now 12 years since the iconic Jack Skelington and The Nightmare Before Christmas first sprang into glorious life-in-death on the silver screen, and the film is, if anything, even more popular now. Will Corpse Bride achieve a similar longevity? Trust me, Corpse Bride will live forever.

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