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Tag: Tim Burton

Corpse Bride (2005)

director: Tim Burton, Mike Johnson
starring: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham-Carter, Emily Watson
running time: 76 mins
rating: PG

Tim Burton's Corpse BrideEver since The Nightmare Before Christmas, Burton aficionados have been waiting for a return to his quirky stop-motion world. That’s not quite what Corpse Bride offers, but it does serve as a reassuring sign, along with the recent Wallace and Grommit release from stop-motion masters Aardman, that the art form still has life (and more than a little death) in it yet.

The film retells a classic Ukrainian folklore tale of a young man named Victor Van Dort [Johnny Depp] whose marriage to Victoria Everglott [Emily Watson] has been engineered by their parents to save the two families. Victor is a well meaning but utterly inept chap who, having discovered Victoria is in fact the girl of his dreams, gets cold feet after embarassing himself at the wedding rehearsal. Running off into the woods, through a “grave misunderstanding”, he accidentally marries the Corpse Bride [Helena Bonham-Carter] instead. Finding himself trapped in the underworld, he must fight his way back to the land of the living to be with his true love.

Victor and VictoriaThe voice acting in this film is first class, but what really makes it special is that despite a cast of big-name actors (including a host of Burton regulars), none of them are recognisable. We are not treated to the usual Madagascar-esque mediocrity where actors play themselves as is so common when A-list actors find themselves working in animated features. Rather, one would not even notice Depp’s presence as the lead were his name not thrust upon the screen. This anonymity serves incredibly well in avoiding detracting from the characters and the style.

The Corpse BrideVisually beautifully macabre, the animation itself is flawless in its fluidity, and seems so smooth that one could often mistake it for a digital creation (indeed it looks far better than most of this year’s lacklustre digital fare). The designs are inimitably Burtonesque with awkwardly skewed architecture, gangly limbs and big expressive eyes. However the characters themselves seem utterly two-dimensional, with the possible exception of the Corpse Bride herself, eerily alluring to the point where we find ourselves hoping Victor will stay with her since she stands out from a slightly bland canvas. This being a kids movie, the question of necrophilia is thankfully left alone, settling for a tender approach to Victor and the Corpse Bride’s tragic situation. Meanwhile the dark humour follows the traditional mix of slapstick for the youngsters and wry satire for the more mature audience members, succeeding admirably on both counts.

Danny Elfman’s decent musical numbers, while much improved upon arriving in the land of the dead (where the visuals are infused with more warmth too), lack the colourful and charismatic composition that made his offerings in Nightmare so memorable. Indeed, this feeling permeates much of the proceedings, as everything which made the last outing so energetic here feels competent but somehow muted. It’s the sort of family film that Disney will be very happy to have produced but will leave Burton fans a little disappointed due to their understandably high expectations and the undeniably good but altogether safe result.

rating: 3/4

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)

director: Tim Burton
starring: Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, David Kelly, Deep Roy
running time: 107 mins
rating: PG

Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryTim Burton is the perfect man to helm a new version of one of Roald Dahl’s best loved novels and while this offbeat film will certainly not stick to people’s expectations, Depp’s remarkably original portrayal of Wonka will startle and captivate in equal measures. The fourth outing for the pair is as delirious an adventure as ever, though it will irritate some as much as amuses others.

Legendary chocolatier Willy Wonka [Johnny Depp] is now a recluse but has announced that he will allow five children the opportunity to tour his gigantic factory. To win they must find one of five golden tickets that have been hidden inside his chocolate bars. Charlie Bucket [Freddie Highmore] is desperate to find a golden ticket and discover the secrets that lie behind the factory gates…

Burton’s restrained opening reel introduces us to the simple Bucket family and the director masterfully elicits audible gasps of disappointment and delight from viewers and Charlie fails to and eventually finds the much sought after final golden ticket. The director’s zany colourful style fills the screen once we enter the factory with all the subtlety of a Las Vegas stageshow. A boat sequence screams of theme park ride tie-in, while we sample Wonka’s nonsensical sugary delights.

Willy Wonka and his visitorsWith his plum velvet jacket and purple surgical gloves, we are shown an eccentric, quirky, and slightly unfriendly Wonka as Depp delves far deeper into the character’s psyche than Gene Wilder’s incarnation. “I don’t care,” Wonka responds flatly as one of the brattish kids attempts to introduce herself. Burton and Depp let us see what makes him tick so we can understand what turns someone into such a reclusive genius, utilising several new additions to the story in the form of flashbacks to his childhood and relationship with his father (apparently a recurring theme with Burton after Big Fish). Depp probably suggested Highmore for Charlie, having worked alongside the talanted young actor in Finding Neverland. His Charlie is simple but pleasant and open; he is the audience’s mesmerised wide eyes inside the factory.

The Oompa Loompas sing off each of the unfortunate childrenI like Danny Elfman but he does rather run riot over the soundtrack with a series of outlandish Oompa Loompa songs that frankly seem disjointed and out of place. However the brash songs, when choreographed with a brilliantly deadpan Deep Roy playing every one of the little folk, do grow on you.

Watching from the vantage of a hovering glass elevator as the unfortunate children leave the factory after being taught their sticky lessons is a magical moment of Dahl whimsy. Like Dahl, Burton stresses that these are awful kids but blames their parents with a stern warning for his adult audience. And this is the film’s successful dichotomy: the focus on Wonka’s character is an intriguing approach for older viewers while retaining enough of the inimitable Dahl magic to delight the core audience of children.

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rating: 2.5/4

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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