|Cinema Signals by Jules Brenner:|
by Stephen King
Never has so much been done with clay and bones. But, the result leaves one the impression that the concentration demanded by the technique of claymation wizard Nick Park tripped up the story in this Tim Burton Halloweenesque musical. The chorus line survives when the drama loses balance.
It's the macabre fable of Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp), an awkward boy who becomes betrothed to Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson) in an arranged marriage that turns out to be a splendid case of love at first sight. Victor's talent at the keyboard cinches Victoria's happiness as composer Danny Elfman supports the issue with a jumping opening song and dance called, "According to Plan."
But, what would a story be without a glitch in plans and happiness so early in the first act? The wrench in the gears of matrimony is Victor's rather contrived inability to remember his wedding vows. At the wedding rehearsal, he stumbles and repeats, making a mess of it and storming out of the chapel in utter anger at himself. There, he practices and practices, determined to get it right. And right he gets it. At the time of putting the ring on his bride's finger, he slams it onto a branch. Or, so he thinks it's a branch.
It turns out to be the ring finger of a corpse, just happening to be sticking above ground. It comes to some sensibility of animated death in the form of Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter), a rather sexy, ravishing reminder of the beauty she (it?) enjoyed while living. She falls instantly in love with her new betrothed and wrenches him down to the underground where her compatiots in death reside and carry on like so many denizens of the afterlife.
It's colorful and most animated, and Corpse Bride shows her emotional mettle as the problems of crossing the great divide between the living and the dead show up in a variety of grave ways, including the peculiar triangle of love between the worlds. Whimsy and making jokes on the dead (they don't breath but they can blow out candles) and a steady flow of fun with the conventions of horror are amusing highlights and, with Danny Elfman's sprightly musical numbers, entertaining... so long as the not-so-well-thought-out logic, and Victor's emotional indecision are accepted uncritically.
The design of the 3-D figures are stunningly well designed, as are the sets and environmental ambience, but after so much accomplished work in animation, ("The Incredibles," "Shrek 2") the technical achievements here aren't enough to carry the flawed dramatic content.
The Soundtrack Album The DVD