Dead Sexy. Get It? Because She's A Corpse. Now Give Me A Job Writing Headlines, USA Today.
Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
Tim Burton is my guilty pleasure. I’ll admit that, as guilty pleasures go, it’s not a terribly embarrassing one, especially when contrasted with my other habit of masturbating to autopsy photos of dead relatives, but I’m reticent to admit it nonetheless. See, I’m a snob when it comes to movies, mainly because I’m too poor to be a snob about anything else. I enjoy them, to a certain extent, since they keep my mind off the troubles of the world and my hands off the county morgue photo album, but they’re never good enough for me. One of my biggest complaints is the style-over-substance virus that long ago nestled in the respiratory tract of Hollywood and quickly spreads throughout the world every time the US coughs up another Matrix clone lodged in a wad of phlegm, and Tim Burton is one its most virulent carriers. He’s made some great films, but most of the time it seems as if his creative process involves tracing over Edward Gorey illustrations and letting some screenwriting hack fill in the blanks between elaborate set-pieces. Sometimes, he strikes gold, but other times there’s barely enough plot holding the visuals together, resulting in a film that’s just macabre pastel drawings caught in a cobweb spun by a tipsy spider with Down’s Syndrome. Nevertheless, I do enjoy his movies, putting me in a class alongside high school boys with the entire Type O Negative discography and twenty-something women with a credit card full of Emily gear. In the grand scheme of things that I’m embarrassed to admit, I’d put it around 3, as indicated by the following handy chart.
1. I have considerably more action figures than I do friends.
2. This is not because I have a lot of action figures.
3. I like Tim Burton films. Even Frankenweenie.
4. I like to do the autopsy photo thing.
5. While my action figures watch.
The Corpse Bride, however, is a film I’m not embarrassed to have enjoyed. Sure, it’s barely over an hour long, but years of watching music videos while snorting a powdered mix of Ritalin and pseudoephedrine have resulted in an attention span that’s shorter than Bridget the Midget, who incidentally is guilty pleasure #6. Also, the end is a little weak, but if you just imagine the film as a children’s fable for Little Gloomy fans, it’s forgivable. The story tells the tale of young Victor Van Dort, the son of a nouveau-riche fish baron set to be married off to Victoria Everglot in a dull Victorian village full of gray tones, guttural names, and enormous hats. Through some wily plot contrivances, Victor accidentally marries a corpse, and spends much of the movie in a colorful underworld reminiscent of the waiting room from Beetlejuice with stop motion animation. The story, mood, and morbid humor appeals to the 13 year old Misfits fan in all of us, I think, and who among us hasn’t wished in their darker moments for a dead wife. Or, I suppose more commonly, that our wife was dead, especially when she’s trying to convince you to buy her the first season of Will & Grace by stomping her feet and pouting in the middle of Best Buy. But, I can tell you from experience, dating the dead is not entirely pleasant. Sure, if you’re in the mood and she’s on the rag, it’s convenient to be able to just hollow out another orifice in some unused chunk of flesh and do your husbandly duty, but the smell never does get out of the drapes, and eventually her mother will wonder while no one’s returning her calls.
Nevertheless, there’s enough in here to keep most people happy, including my hero Christopher Lee, and some fantastic stop motion photography that would make Ray Harryhausen proud, if he hadn’t gone insane animating that shrilly annoying metal bird from Clash of the Titans. The story is surprisingly engaging, and the performances are uniformly strong, plus they’re credited up front, which is a nice change. Usually, in animated movies, they make you wait until the end to figure out who’s doing what voice, allegedly because recognizing the actor behind the animation is distracting. You know what’s more distracting? Spending all two hours of The Incredibles trying to figure out why Violet sounds so familiar, only to discover that you saw her on Late Night With Conan O’Brien promoting a book on Abraham Lincoln two years ago. It’s frustrating, and since the only way I can relieve that frustration is through 19th century silver gelatin prints of my great-uncle after a mining explosion, it’s not appreciated.