October 23, 2005

And though I'd like to stand by him....

We saw The Corpse Bride last night. I do not find myself impressed.

The essential problem can, I think, be encapsulated by the following statement: when I walked out of the theater after watching this delightful musical tour de force, I had Sally's solo song from The Nightmare Before Christmas stuck in my head. If you're going to beg to be compared to a movie that most of your audience saw and loved, you'd better not fall short of it. Corpse Bride falls short -- the songs aren't as infectious, the characters not as interesting, and the plot not as clever as Nightmare Before Christmas.

Plot? It's set up five minutes in that there are only two ways the story can go. Victor can wind up with the sweet girl who mopes around doing what her parents tell her to, or he can wind up with the sweet girl who mopes around listening to a spider and a maggot singing about how she's got a wonderful personality. This does not make for a complex and engaging storyline. It's a little like the Sunfire romance novels that were being discussed around here the other week; at the end our helpless protagonist will wind up with one of the two love interests and the rest of the story will be wrapped up in a sentence or two.

Zach said that Corpse Bride was done "by the numbers". I tend to agree. There was the requisite self-doubting hero, the requisite tragic heroine (well, two of them, I suppose), the requisite jazzy-cool song with flashy blacklight backgrounds, even the requisite dead dog, for pete's sake. But the self-doubting hero doesn't ever develop any redeeming passion, the tragic heroines are as passive as tragic heroines have ever been, and Oogy Boogy's only interest in that song would have been to put its writers on his roulette wheel and spin them until they were sorry.

The songs are a major sticking point for me. You know that thing that happens when a songwriter isn't coming up with any good, tight, clever way to put words to melodies and instead just writes long wandering lines that can soooooort of be forced to follow a rather tortured tune but you're certainly not going to get them stuck in your head or start singing them yourself? (Katie: it's the thing that Midtown did with every song on Forget What You Know.) Most of the songs in the movie suffer from that. Maybe someone with more musical sophistication than I would appreciate their complexity; me, I just found them not as catchy and memorable as songs in a musical should be.

I understand that it isn't possible for every single thing that Danny Elfman, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp do to be the height of brilliance and the pinnacle of their respective careers. I heard that once in 1995 Tim Burton went to the bathroom and failed to excrete gold. Nonetheless, I am disappointed.

In other movie news, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit is great. Aardman Animation is an unstoppable brilliance machine, tirelessly working the pedals on the brilliance engine for days on end without rest. The jokes are funny, the animation is brilliant (Gromit's eyebrows are more expressive than most live human actors I've seen), the characters are charming and the story is sweet. Save your Corpse Bride pennies and go see Were-Rabbit instead.

Posted by dianna at October 23, 2005 08:13 PM

to be fair, the basic premise of the corpse bride wasn't burton's, but rather an eastern european(?) fairy tale. that said, i agree that the songs just didn't quite make it. i don't know if i would have thought differently, had i seen the movie when i was less old and jaded, but i didn't come out humming...um...could someone name one of the songs for me?

still, the direction was (IMO) significantly better in Corpse Bride, with a much more dynamic feel. if you watch the nightmare before christmas now you may be struck by how static the scenes and camerawork feel. wonderful, yes, but this time around burton made it feel much more 'real.' the tech aspects of this one, too, from the perspective of someone who has spent entirely too many hours trying to make clay figures dance, were extraordinary. (rather than ramble on further, i direct the interested's attention to: http://www.apple.com/pro/film/lucas/)

Posted by: Erik at October 23, 2005 11:11 PM