In Tim Burton's new animated film, The Corpse Bride, we get skeletons in various stages of decomposition dancing on the screen instead of something cute and fuzzy. Comedy relief comes from a flesh-eating maggot that talks like Peter Lorre. The plot centers on murder, suicide and a young man forced to choose between marrying a live woman and a corpse. Given all this, you might think The Corpse Bride isn't a kids' movie at all. But you'd be wrong.
Death, really, is a pretty common thing in kids' movies. But the moms or dads and other assorted victims are usually done-in off-screen. Questions about the afterlife are then swept under the rug. Not here.
In The Corpse Bride, Burton splits the world evenly: half for the living, half for the dead. But this movie's divisions aren't clear splits between black and white, good and evil, ugly and beautiful. Everything is gray. The land of the living is filled with people whose spirits are dead. The land of the dead can be a pretty fun place. And what we'd consider disgusting - like a woman with a hole rotted through her cheek - can be lovely.
Similarly, the choice forced upon Victor Van Dort (Johnny Depp) - whether to marry the living bride or the corpse one - is not as easy as it might seem. As is often the case in real life, Victor's heart is pulled in different directions as he sees loveable qualities and drawbacks with both brides. Based on a Russian folk tale, this story makes a perfect life lesson for young people.
Marrying low-tech and hi-tech qualities, the movie recalls the moving-puppet shows we all grew up watching at the holidays. But this all-digital production uses special effects - especially in the glorious final image - to reveal technology's advantage. Visit www.vinton.com to learn more about Vinton Studios, the production company that teamed up with Burton. Be sure to check out Vinton's film shorts while you are there. And be sure to go see The Corpse Bride whether you have a kid or not.