Tim Burton's talents seem to lie in his ability to find a macabre angle to nearly any story. His Nightmare Before Christmas took almost all the cheer out of that festive holiday season and his tale of the Big Fish cast a gloomy pall over father/son relationships.
Now Corpse Bride takes a morbid, but well-animated look, at pre-nuptial jitters.
Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp) is the cowering son of a status-seeking fishmonger couple. His parents have happily betrothed him to the upper class daughter of a titled nobleman and his snobbish wife. The Everglots, on the other hand, are appalled at the thought of their Victoria (voiced by Emily Watson) walking down the aisle with a commoner. Yet the reality is their money has long since trickled to an end and in order to maintain their air of wealth they must marry their girl off to someone who doesn't demand a dowry.
Used as pawns in the game of illusions, Victor and Victoria meekly go along with their parental demands. But during the wedding rehearsal, Victor is so nervous he continually stumbles over his vows. Flustered, he runs away to the forest where he practices his lines over and over before placing the ring on an old, bare twig.
Suddenly the twig begins to move, rising from the ground to reveal a partially decomposing bride (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) who insists she and Victor are now married. Dragging the unwilling groom down to the land of the dead, Emily enthusiastically introduces her new husband to the other corpses who are wandering around in various degrees of decay.
The fact that Victor is still breathing doesn't seem to concern the cadavers who cavort around in a bar setting, many still bearing the weapons that caused their untimely demise. In addition, those who died of natural causes are equally accepting of the new arrival.
Initially anxious to return to the world of the living and his warm-blooded fianc0xE9e, Victor begins to discover the unearthly charm of his bride. Accustomed to living according to the demands of others, he sees his personal ability to free Emily from the deathly curse she is under.
Definitely not aimed at children or those with an aversion to gruesome postmortem characters, the film also includes the suggestion of suicide and the depiction of a murder victim. However, it also introduces a lively afterlife where spirits are still subject to emotions and heartache. At one point, when the living and the dead briefly meet, there is a happy reunion for many who have been separated by the death of loved ones. More importantly, as the timid Victor starts to act positively in behalf of someone else, he finds the real power of love isn't in money or appearances.
Still for many parents (who don't want to be up at night), the nightmarish images will be reason enough to decline an invitation to the bizarre wedding party of this Corpse Bride for anyone younger than a teen.