Columbus Alive | September 22, 2005
Considering the continued popularity of merch based on Nightmare Before Christmas and Disney’s propensity to release quickie direct-to-video sequels, it’s downright shocking the studio never made a follow-up to the 1993 stop-motion film. It’s not surprising that Warner Bros. enlisted Burton—gaining access to his aesthetic and name—to craft this sort-of sequel.

Corpse Bride, which credits both Burton and Nightmare assistant animator Mike Johnson as co-directors, is practically Nightmare Before Christmas II. It’s a musical children’s tale with Disney-style songs and dances. It features music and lyrics by Danny Elfman, and the voices of Burton regulars Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Christopher Lee. The models even look like slightly altered designs of Nightmare characters, right down to an undead dog with a reverse raindrop-shaped head.

That all adds up to a hardly fresh film, one that at times feels like a Burton pastiche more than a Burton film. But if others, like Johnson, can now out-Burton Burton, that beats another Planet of the Apes or Big Fish.

The Victorian vaudeville world is deliciously designed, as are the characters that inhabit it. Depp voices Victor, a nervous young man being forced to marry Victoria (Emily Watson) sight unseen. While practicing his vows in the woods, he sets the ring on what he assumes to be a tree branch, but it’s actually the finger of the Corpse Bride (Carter).

Perhaps the film’s crowning achievement design-wise, the Bride’s blue skin is cut away here and there revealing naked bone beneath her tattered wedding dress, making for a perversely eroticized character. (The film is, thankfully, too romantic and fanciful to address questions of necrophilia and suicide.)

She whisks Victor underground to her world, a sort of 24/7 Mexican Day of the Dead celebration that’s much more lively than the real world above, thanks to all the singing and dancing skeletons and a Wizard of Oz-like shift in palette, from a rainbow of grays to one of swamp gas-hued neons. And like the Day of the Dead, the film reconciles the two worlds through dark humor and light fun, putting grins on normally expression-less skulls.

Columbus Alive

Founded in 1983, Alive is the Capital City's oldest and only independent alternative and is known for providing a forum for the area's free thinkers. The paper's spirited and original perspective on music, arts and culture distinguish it from the...
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