Review by Gordon Justesen

Voices: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson, Joanna Lumley, Albert Finney, Richard E. Grant, Christopher Lee
Directors: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 77 minutes
Release Date: January 31, 2006

“A tragic tale of romance, passion, AND A MURDER MOST FOUL!”

Film ***

Johnny Depp and Tim Burton both had quite a busy year last year.

The frequent collaborators managed to make two movies which both were welcomed with big open arms by their long time devoted fans, of which I am very much a part of. First came the visually stunning adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which featured a production design for the history books and a brilliantly bizarre turn by Depp. Now comes the animated feature, Corpse Bride, which has Depp voicing the lead character alongside the same level of amazing, and rare, stop-motion animation that Burton helped to enliven the screen over a decade ago with The Nightmare Before Christmas.

It turns out that the production of both films occurred simultaneously. In between shootings for the massively-budgeted Charlie, Burton was able to execute a brief production for this animated feature that was made for a much lower budget, by comparison. The level of craft and artistry that went into both films is simply amazing and undeniable.

Corpse Bride is a very intriguing, incredibly funny and quite original piece of entertainment. It does plunge the viewer into a world that is rarely visited in animated films. Actually, there are two worlds depicted in the film; the world of the living and the world of the dead.

The story concerns Victor Van Dort (voiced by Depp), a hapless lad who is being forced into an “arranged” marriage to Victoria Everglot (voiced by Emily Watson), who isn’t too excited about being forced into a marriage, either. The entire ceremony is being fiercely put together by the parents of the groom and the bride, both of whom have one desire; for the ceremony to go according to plan.

But then something unexpected happens. Victor and Victoria meet by accident prior to the wedding rehearsal and, much to Victor’s surprise, he finds himself a bit smitten with the woman already. This seems to cause him to behave extremely nervous and mess up on his wedding vows during the rehearsal.

After being ordered to practice on his vows before the marriage, Victor does so in the woods nearby. For once, he successfully executes the proper vows, and even practices using his wedding ring by placing it on a twig. Only this twig is not a twig, but rather the desiccated finger belonging to Emily, the Corpse Bride (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter). Victor discovers this when she arises from underneath the ground. Since a ring is on her finger, she believes Victor to be her husband.

What follows is a pure visual spectacle, as Emily takes Victor to her home in the underworld, filled with an assorted bunch of bizarre-looking characters that only Tim Burton could deliver. Among them is a dwarf with a sword stuck through him, a slithering worm with a Peter Lorre-ish voice, and Victor’s deceased dog who now appears in a skeletal form.

The rest of the story concerns Victor attempting to get back to the world of the living, and back to Victoria, who believes has vanished on account of cold feet. At the same time, he has to explain to Emily that the entire incident with the ring was a misunderstanding, and that he is not in any way her husband. This causes her to have some emotional fits as she simply can’t understand why Victor wants to leave her.

In a time when computer animation seems to be the dominant force in the animated genre, it is wildly refreshing to see such films as Corpse Bride and Wallace & Gromit emerge with a trend-bending approach. As much as I dig computer animated films, it’s important to remember the alternate ways that have brought numerous stories to life. As for Tim Burton, the stories he tells merit such a distinct look, and Corpse Bride is the perfect marriage of original animation and twisted storytelling.

Video ****

This was actually my first time experiencing a stop-motion animated film on DVD, and this transfer by Warner is nothing short of stunning. The anamorphic picture is consistently beautiful as the animation flourishes tremendously in a near three-dimension quality presentation. The image quality is nothing but sharp and clear all the way through, with some of the most vivid and bright array of colors to ever emerge in a single presentation.

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix is alive and blazin’. A Tim Burton movie always comes with an endless amount of superb sound quality, and in this case, the surround sound qualities never die and end up in the underworld. Everything from the lively Danny Elfman score to the engaging music numbers to several bits of action are delivered in a fullest form possible. Dialogue is delivered grandly, as well.

Features ***1/2

Warner has dug up some nice extras from the grave. This coffin of bonuses includes many documentaries, including  “Inside the Two Worlds”, “Danny Elfman Interprets The Two Worlds”, “The Animators: The Breath Of Life”, “Tim Burton: Dark vs. Light”, “Voices from the Underworld”, “Making Puppets Tick” and “The Voices Behind The Voice”. Also featured are Preproduction Galleries, a Music Only Track and a Theatrical Trailer.


If you’ve been clamoring for Tim Burton to deliver the animated goods as he did with The Nightmare Before Christmas, the Corpse Bride will immensely satisfy. It mixes animation and trademark Burton features to dead-on perfection!

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