review for Tim Burton's Corpse Bride on AllMovie

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005)
by Derek Armstrong review

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride is essentially a reunion of every actor, composer, or animator the director has ever worked with. This is good news if you're a Burton fan, not such good news if his familiar milieu has worn thin. Those entranced by Burton's gothic stylings will find Corpse Bride resembling an obvious source of inspiration, the drawings of Edward Gorey, perhaps more than anything Burton has filmed. The blue-tinted, chiaroscuro world of the living is practically an homage to Gorey's work, full of jagged angles, caricatures ranging from gaunt to rotund, and gnarled, haunting beauty. It's when Burton goes downstairs to the world of the dead that Corpse Bride begins feeling like a lazy rehash of his own work. This full-color revue of singing skeletons is his third such visitation to a land of campy undead, following Beetlejuice and The Nightmare Before Christmas. The cheekily grotesque whimsy of these characters, with their removable body parts and PG-rated gore, felt fresh in those films, but here it just seems perfunctory and warmed over. Danny Elfman's lyrics and songs have also lost their charm to the point of anonymity, and his score, complete with its standard complement of ethereal choral voices, is as much a tired self-allusion as anything Burton's guilty of. Perhaps if the plot were sturdier, these elements wouldn't be so noticeable. Some obvious reservations aside, Corpse Bride is overall a winning achievement, as Burton's collaborators mostly continue to excel at what they do. The vocal talent is evocative, notably Helena Bonham Carter (Burton's "collaborator" in more than one way) as the forlorn corpse bride herself. It's just that such great things are expected of Burton as a visual trailblazer, it can't help but be disappointing when he doesn't go very far off the path.