Corpse Bride reminds you that you gotta be careful when stating your wedding vows. Someone may get the wrong idea if they’re in the area. It’s a pretty interesting story since the main character isn’t brave enough to fight back so he gets himself in a lot of trouble. The film does tend to get a little grotesque with its visual humor though, particularly when in the land of the dead. It’s why despite how the heroine may be a nice person, it’s hard to see this working out for the guy. The whole eye popping out all the time would definitely make you shudder.
The movie starts with Victor preparing for his arranged marriage with Victoria. He’s pretty nervous about the whole thing. After all, the two characters have never even met before which makes things pretty difficult. Still, he is excited to meet her so he preps for this. He ends up being unable to talk much when he sees her and then messes everything up at the wedding rehearsal. Ashamed, Victor heads to the forest and put the wedding ring on a tree finger as he recites the vows. It turns out he said this to the corpse known as Emily who gladly accepts. He is now stuck with her in a wedding pact in the underworld. Victor needs to find a way back to the land of the living so that he can finally be with Victoria. To do that he’s going to need to trick Emily but should be really be doing something so underhanded?
From the start you can tell that most of the characters here are not meant to be all that sympathetic. Victor’s parents are usually taking shots the whole time. The mother in particular really just wants Victor to get married already so they can have some dignity. Meanwhile Victoria’s parents are completely out of money and they’re hoping that this will get them a nice pay day. The irony here is that as elites you figure that they would have a lot of cash at the ready. Both families are really using the kids as tools.
Fortunately it does work out that Victor and Victoria do like each other but at the same time it makes it easier for you to possibly root for the dead girl. After all you can only connect so much after a few minutes right? The cast is fairly small to be honest as the only other big character would be the villain Barkis. I can’t say that Barkis was very good though. I liked his initial appearance as he showed up to complicate things and mess with everyone. I can always respect that and he has a lot of confidence but his plan was basically to marry Victoria so that’s no good. We also learn about his past near the end which seals the deal as his not being a very good guy. Of course you would expect that from a villain bus his goals seem to petty and it also seems like he’s just not good at managing money. That’s a bad combination.
What holds the movie back to an extent is that the imagery can be pretty gross the whole time. Burton’s definitely no stranger to rather odd visuals that’s for sure. He likes having the goth motif and it can work reasonably well although I’ll take traditional any time. Whenever we’re in the underworld you can expect people’s eyes to be falling out, worms everywhere, and stuff like that. It’s definitely not the most pleasant backdrop and does limit the film a bit. As I mentioned earlier, it’s also hard to root for Emily as a result. Now the film does play the sympathy card for her quite a bit and to a degree you may feel bad for her. Her real life didn’t work out so well and so this was her chance to really make a comeback. In the present the whole misunderstanding is really on her though.
Is Emily trying to say that she only heard the vows and nothing before it? Additionally with context clues she should have been able to figure something out. Now it’s part of the main plot of course but Victor tries to tell Emily this was a mistake the whole time. The afterlife has not been great for her either as Emily just looks dead. This isn’t the kind of movie where the dead person still looks pristine. Even though Victor was willing to make this work it’s just hard to see this working out well.
Victoria’s a nice enough character although I wouldn’t say there is much to her. She definitely does her best to make sure everything turns out well though so I’ll give her some props there. The scene of her trying to ask the priest the tough questions was one of the funniest moments of the film. It was handled very well for sure. Then we’ve got Victor and I’m not a fan of that guy. He’s way too nervous and just goes along with what he’s told to do. The guy doesn’t have a whole lot of agency to himself. He’s really responsible for all of the messes he gets himself into. If he was just a little bolder and more outspoken then he wouldn’t have fared so poorly. Try this on for size, if Emily hadn’t made the call for him at the end then Victor would have just gone through with the whole thing. If anything you have to doubt his devotion to either heroine since he was clearly willing to go with either one or the other.
Overall, Corpse Bride is a pretty unique film. It’s definitely rare to see more of a Halloween romance film. The story’s not bad and there are some fun moments to be had for sure. The scene of the dead people going into the church while staying quiet was really nice since they still had respect was great. It was also nice to see everyone just hanging out and having a good time at the end. Zombies aren’t as scary when they’re actually good people and still have free will. The whole gross aspect of the dead side holds the film down to an extent though. It puts the film squarely in the green, it’s not a film I’d ever plan to rewatch but it’s not bad either. It doesn’t ever make any huge error that would make me turn it down. You can’t help but feel like it could have been a whole lot better though. If you want to see a film with this kind of atmosphere then I’d recommend watching Coraline sooner but you’ll have a good time here.