Could it be that Tim Burton’s entire career has been a slow and steady PR campaign for the other side, a sort of showbiz version of Jim Jones-style Kool-Aid? In Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride tale of Victor Van Dort, a 19th-century bumbler/charmer who finds himself betrothed to a Miss Havishamesque decedent instead of his lovely and living intended, Burton looks for heart in the macabre yet again. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter voice their stop-action-animated puppet doppel-gängers from this drab mortal coil to a jazzy afterworld and back again (with bouncy help from supporting voices Emily Watson, Tracey Ullman, Albert Finney, and others) in presenting one of the more piquant relationship challenges: the periodic loss of body parts. It’s a thin postcard of a plot, and lines like ”He couldn’t get far with those cold feet” typify most of the humor, but the animation team’s real achievement is how they so richly and convincingly vivify (and vivisect) Burton’s vision with minimal CGI. In an ”Inside the Two Worlds” doc, codirector Mike Johnson touts the ”organic openness of the Land of the Dead” as if he were selling prime real estate. Featurettes on the animators and puppeteers peer into what producer Allison Abbate calls the ”herculean” process of stop-motion and the labyrinthine machinery inside a puppet’s head, while Depp is impressed enough to aver: ”Victor is a better actor than I am.” Pre-production galleries trace the path from rough sketch to animated vitality; composer Danny Elfman, whose score is sublime, gets his own doc; and in ”Tim Burton: Dark vs. Light,” cast member Christopher Lee, who’s worked with Orson Welles, Steven Spielberg, and Peter Jackson, says Burton ”really is my favorite director.”

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride
  • Movie
  • 74 minutes