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Black Celebration.

As with the wonders of Pixar — indeed, even more so, given the amount of time and effort involved — Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride is such a (literally) eye-popping stop-motion marvel that it seems churlish to quibble with its perhaps just-a-bit-too-formulaic approach. If you loved The Nightmare Before Christmas (as I did), you’ve likely already seen Corpse Bride, and probably loved it also…even if you felt that you’d already seen much of it before (and especially if you ever played Grim Fandango.) Nevertheless, even ensconced as it is in the now-slightly-creaky Burtonverse, Corpse Bride is a sumptuous 75-minute treat that’s skull-and-shoulders above most animated fare.

The story is thus: Much to the chagrin of the aristocratic (but penniless) Everglots (Albert Finney & Joanna Lumley), their daughter Victoria (Emily Watson) is soon to be betrothed to the meek, moon-eyed Victor (Johnny Depp), sire of nouveau-riche and fabulously wealthy fishmongers. Victor and Victoria seem to get on well enough — they both enjoy melancholy etudes on the Harryhausen piano, which should tell you all you need to know about their romantic viability in Tim Burton’s world. But, when Victor is prevailed upon by the local minister (Christopher Lee) to practice his vows in the nearby enchanted forest, he inadvertently awakens — and weds — the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter), who, despite being undead, is quite a looker…all pillow lips and bedroom eyes (albeit one that’s home to a Peter Lorre-like maggot.) Y’see, apparently long ago a dastardly suitor (Richard Grant) pulled a Kill Bill on the Bride here, and since then she’s been waiting for a bridegroom to free her from his curse, and die with her happily ever after…

If you don’t see where this is going from the opening reel, well, you should get out to the movies more. But that’s neither here nor there — as with life (and, in this film, death), the journey is the reward. At times, Corpse Bride seems entirely too reminiscent of Nightmare — Instead of “ma-king Christ-mas,” the denizens of the Dead are ma-king wed-dings. (Or, when the Dead Elder-fellow (Michael Gough) scratches the hole in his skull, it’s funny…but it also recalls the exact same move by Dr. Finkelstein in the earlier film.) For the most part, though, Corpse Bride is rife with its own inventive flourishes. (I particularly liked the little undead kids at right, the Elder’s raven, and the designs of the aged living.) And I’m willing to forgive sins much more grievous than the mild repetition on display here if it means Burton & co. will keep making stop-motion movies. Their gothic world may always be tinged with the same palette of nightmare and melancholy, but frankly, I’m smitten.

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