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Notes From The Back Row

Love, marriage, and airplane terror



" Marriage , n . A community consisting of a master, a mistress, and two slaves, making in all two." So said Ambrose Bierce, in his classic 1911 satirical tome The Devil's Dictionary .

Ah marriage, it’s either the beginning or the end of your life, depending on who you ask. Well in Corpse Bride , opening this week, prolific filmmaker Tim Burton takes a stab at both marriage and death, or rather the undead, and in a stop-motion animation aimed at children and adults no less.

Victor (voiced by perennial Burton collaborator Johnny Depp) is a nervous chap stuck in an arranged marriage with a girl he’s never met. Luckily she’s fabulous and they hit it off right away. After screwing up his vows at the wedding rehearsal Victor retreats to the forest to collect himself and ends up accidentally slipping her ring on the finger of the corpse bride, a woman with decomposed arms (and perfectly preserved breasts) that had been murdered and left in a shallow grave. Victor thought her bony hand was a stick. Hey, it could happen to any of us.

The corpse bride proclaims Victor her one true love and takes him to the underworld, while his betrothed, Victoria, is auctioned off to a real bastard. Down in the exceptionally lively land of the dead, Victor must try to find his way back to his true love before it’s too late.

Burton and co-director/ace animator Mike Johnson have teamed up on two stop-motion projects before – 1993’s Nightmare Before Christmas and 1996’s James and the Giant Peach (Burton produced) so the animation and attention to detail in this film is absolutely spellbinding.

Unfortunately it lacks a little in other areas. The numerous musical numbers are nothing special (sorry Danny Elfman), and while Burton juxtaposes a drab, class-oriented world of the living with a much more fun, colourful and alive feeling land of the dead, his main character, Victor, is a bit bland and not much of a leading man. Luckily the corpse bride (voiced by Helena Bonham Carter) is sassy enough to carry most of the picture.

This is not to say Corpse Bride is a terrible picture; it kinda rules. But as a nightmare before marriage picture it just doesn’t quite have the same wit, sparkle and consistency as Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.

Speaking of zombies and nightmares, there are a few "intellectuals" out there who claim that the recent rash of undead movies is significant in that it signifies a societal cry for help from a nation afraid of death and the inevitable. This could be stretching it a bit far but one thing’s for sure, Zombies are cool and we are definitely seeing a lot more airplane thrillers these days.

Not long ago it was Wes Craven’s Red Eye, and this week Jodie Foster fails to return her seat to the upright position in Flightplan , a smart film that follows Foster as she searches for her daughter, who’s somehow disappeared while in an airplane flying at 37,000 feet. To top it off there’s no trace of the girl ever being there and Foster, whose husband recently died, may be delusional. The viewer feels like just another passenger on the plane as we try to figure out what the hell is going on.

Flightplan is German director Robert Schwentke’s American debut and it’s a doozy. Chock full of claustrophobic tension, conspiracy, grief, lies and mistrust, Flightplan is by far the best marriage movie of the year. Oh, shit, I mean airplane movie, easy mistake.

AT VILLAGE 8 Sept. 23-29: Flight Plan; Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride; Just Like Heaven; Exorcism of Emily Rose; Wedding Crashers; Lord of War; March of the Penguins; 40 Year Old Virgin; Constant Gardner; Cry Wolf. On Tuesday, Sept. 27: Ladies in Lavender.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE Sept. 23-29: The Cave.

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