Aisle Seat February
reviews Tim Burton's CORPSE BRIDE
PLUS: BAMBI II and the new FERRIS
One of the great pleasures of watching a Tim Burton movie is that --
especially in this day and age of bland studio fare -- Burton brings a
trademark style and approach to every project that is unmistakably his
After his 1993 stop-motion feature “The Nightmare Before
Christmas” earned critical raves, a cult following, and solid --
if not spectacular -- box-office, Burton spent years looking for
another story that would suit the visual trappings of
The resulting project was last year’s CORPSE BRIDE (**½,
77 mins., PG; Warner), an unfortunately slight and forgettable exercise
from the auteur.
The not terribly compelling or appealing story revolves around a young
man named Victor (voiced by Johnny Depp), who’s about to enter
into an arranged marriage with a stuffy, obnoxious family named the
Everglots. Their daughter Victoria (articulated by Emily Watson),
however, is a sweet and quiet soul not unlike Victor’s somewhat
timid hero, so all does not appear lost...at least not initially. While
performing the wedding rehearsal, Victor walks outside into the cold,
lonely forest, where he meets the spectral spirit of a young woman
(vocal work by Helena Bonham Carter) who promptly agrees to be wed, and
takes our protagonist into the decidedly more colorful underworld,
where ghosts and ghouls gather for a swingin’ good time.
Visually “Corpse Bride” provides as much of a feast as
“The Nightmare Before Christmas,” with the story’s
two contrasting worlds being marked by the presence of color -- in
Burton’s point of view, “reality” is grey, drab and
de-saturated, while the supernatural realm is dominated by splashes of
warm, primary hues. The character movements and camera work seem to be
more complicated than those on-hand in “Nightmare,” and
fans of the filmmaker will, at least, find plenty of Burton’s
visual flair on-hand to sustain multiple viewing.
Regrettably, “Corpse Bride” otherwise ranks as a somewhat
substantial disappointment. The John August-Caroline Thompson-Pamela
Pettler screenplay does not present interesting characters or a
developed enough story to sustain the movie’s 77 minutes. As much
time is spent on detailing the machinations of Victor’s obnoxious
in-laws as it is on our hero’s relationships with his future wife
and the “Corpse Bride” -- perhaps the result of there being
not enough material to carry the slim premise to “feature”
length. Whatever the case may be, there’s just something cold and
un-involving about the picture.
Also proving to be a letdown is the soundtrack: Danny Elfman’s
unremarkable score is below-par for the composer’s standards,
marked by forgettable songs that fail to move the plot forward the way
his sprightly, memorable tunes from “The Nightmare Before
Christmas” did. His melancholy theme for Victor (which the
character performs on the piano early on) is poignant enough, but there
simply aren’t enough of those moments in the soundtrack, while a
pseudo-Gilbert & Sullivan tune starts the movie off on the wrong
That, essentially, sums up “Corpse Bride.” The picture does
boast a lovely ending -- along with sporadic touches of black comedy --
but its appeal may be limited to die-hard Burton aficionados, and even
then, likely without the affection fans had for his earlier forays into
Warner’s DVD does look marvelous, however: the 1.85 widescreen
transfer is every bit as razor sharp as you might expect. The 5.1 Dolby
Digital sound is robust, and Elfman fans should be pleased with his
score being isolated in 5.1 on a separate channel. Special features
give an adequate overview of the production, touching upon the genesis
of the project to Elfman’s score and the involvement of the
actors who perform the voices for the characters (Bonham Carter,
Watson, Depp, Albert Finney among them).
New From Paramount
It seems as if every few weeks we receive a new
“Special Edition” re-issue of a movie that’s already
been packaged at least once on DVD already.
Paramount’s “Bueller...Bueller..Edition” of John
Hughes’ classic teen comedy FERRIS
BUELLER’S DAY OFF (****, 102 mins., PG-13, 1986) is the
latest such recipient of the “deluxe” treatment, not
surprising since the movie is now celebrating its 20th annivesary (is
that even possible?). Happily, unlike some other, so-called
“Special” editions, Paramount’s DVD does contain new
supplements of interest that ought to please fans of the movie.
The film itself obviously requires little introduction: Hughes’
seminal 1986 film offers Matthew Broderick in one of his quintessential
roles as a high schooler who decides to take a day to enjoy the sights
and sounds of Chicago, pair up with girlfriend Mia Sara, help his best
friend (Alan Ruck) fight his disconnected parents, all the while
avoiding his school principal (the marvelous Jeffrey Jones) and
obnoxious sister (Jennifer Grey), each in hot pursuit.
Hughes’ film has endlessly quotable lines, hilarious moments, and
sensational sequences from start ‘til end. Paramount’s
previous DVD contained a sporadic commentary from Hughes (which has
curiously not been retained for the new disc), but nothing in the way
of Making Of material.
The “Bueller...Bueller...” edition rectifies that by adding
four excellent featurettes which essentially comprise an hour-long
documentary: “Getting the Class Together,” “The
Making of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Who Is Ferris
Bueller?” and “The World According To Ben Stein”
offer fresh interviews with Matthew Broderick, Alan Ruck, Jeffrey
Jones, Jennifer Grey, Ben Stein, producer Tom Jacobson, co-star Edie
McClurg and other supporting players, with vintage interviews of John
Hughes and Mia Sara interspersed throughout.
These featurettes offer a delightful retrospective on the production of
the movie and the often improvisational nature of Hughes’ style.
Consequently, it’s refreshing (and deservedly so) to see as much
attention here given to the “bit parts” that made
“Ferris Bueller” a classic, from McClurg and Ben Stein to
Richard Edson and Kristy Swanson, as opposed to stars like Broderick,
Ruck and Jones.
Everyone discusses how quickly the film went into production, how fast
Hughes worked on the script, and how willing the director was to let
his cast take chances -- all of which paid off splendidly with a movie
that remains a viewer favorite, now some two decades after its initial
release (was I just out of 5th grade that long ago? Yikes!).
The DVD also offers “The Lost Tapes,” a series of
videotaped 1986 interviews with the stars mostly in-character, in
addition to taped footage of the dining room sequence -- noteworthy
here because it contains dialogue which didn’t make it into the
final cut. A photo gallery rounds out the disc, which sports the same
16:9 transfer (of the movie’s 2.35 theatrical ratio; Hughes shot
the picture in Super 35) as the previous DVD, as well as its sometimes
rollicking 5.1 Dolby Digital soundtrack.
“Ferris Bueller” is one of a handful of fine John Hughes
films that remain as current today as they were when initially
released. Isn’t it a shame that we no longer see movies about
adolescents made with not just the humor but the sincerity and energy
that Hughes brought to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”
New From Disney
BAMBI II (***,
2006). 73 mins., G, Disney. DVD FEATURES: Interactive games, Trivia
track, Making Of featurette; 1.78 Widescreen (16:9), 5.1 DTS and Dolby
Sincerely-produced, beautifully-designed sequel to one of
Disney’s all-time classics ranks as the finest direct-to-video
project in the studio’s history.
That’s not to say that “Bambi II” is a masterpiece
like its predecessor -- the story is too straightforward and
“small” in scope to garner a great emotional response --
but it’s certainly a surprising, robustly animated affair with
gorgeous colors that should give hope for the future of direct-to-video
productions yet. Credit has to be given here to director Brian Pimental
and the Disney creative staff for producing a respectful, first-class
small-screen production that ought to please children and adults alike.
The rather slim story follows Bambi’s coming of age as he’s
raised in the forest by “The Great Prince” (voiced by
Patrick Stewart) after the death of his mother, with appearances by all
of the original characters (from Thumper and Flower to Owl) along the
“Bambi II” has a disadvantage right off the bat in that the
original is one of the true treasures in the Disney canon, offering a
timeless story that was quite economically told. Obviously, this being
a “modern” piece, “Bambi II” has to offer a
more contemporary musical accompaniment, in addition to developing
themes (like becoming an adult) that are more explicitly conveyed than
the thematic elements of its predecessor.
That all being said, the music -- from a score by Bruce Broughton
(incorporating underscore from the original) to several pleasant songs
written by Richard Marx among others -- works wonderfully well, the
story is basic but isn’t pretentious at all, and the animation is
glorious. The design of the natural environments and characters is
right in-line with the original movie, and the depth of the animation
is likely unsurpassed for a made-for-video project.
Disney’s DVD contains a smashing 16:9 transfer with a lyrical 5.1
DTS soundtrack that’s a feast for the ears as much as the picture
is for the eyes. Extras are limited to a standard Making Of featurette,
a trivia track, and several interactive games for the kids.
I’m sure that some hard-core Disney fans will find fault with
“Bambi II,” particularly in that the story doesn’t
have that “magical” feel that its predecessor did. Frankly,
is there any way that a made-for-video project could have approximated
the beauty and emotional response generations had to the original
Taken on its own terms, “Bambi II” provides a slight but
satisfying story that kids should find highly appealing, while the
often-dazzling animation will be a happy surprise for adults accustomed
to small-screen fare that’s usually anything but high-quality.
Thankfully, “Bambi II” has raised the bar in regards to the
latter, and comes strongly recommended for family audiences.
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