This post was previously published on my column at ldsblogs.com. I would love if you all checked out that column and maybe added a comment or two.
Welcome as we get a little spooky here on Family Movie Night! It is October after all! So in honor of the season we are going to talk about Tim Burton’s 2005 film The Corpse Bride.
During this time of year many parents ask themselves a question about how dark is too dark for their children to see. I know when I was a child there are 2 films that really scared me and they were both Disney films. The first was Disney’s Return to Oz- an ugly, mean spirited film where Dorothy gets strapped down and give electro-shock therapy (and that’s before she even gets to Oz!). There is also a queen that has a hallway with heads that she scalps from people and wears when she wants a new look. Ah the nightmares.
The other movie that terrified me was as odd as it might sound- The Rescuers. It is an extremely downbeat, sad film from Walt Disney with a little girl who is kidnapped by a horror of a lady and forced to go down in a dark cave all by herself. There is very little hope for Penny and at one point she is told nobody will ever want to adopt her. Geesh Disney!
So those were two films that scared me but there are many kids who like both those films. So how do you know as a parent? It’s really tough. My advice would be you simply have to look at the kid in question and see how sensitive they are. Also what kind of scares does it have? Is it a ghost story or does it take on more weighty themes? What’s the overall tone of the film? Many of my favorite scary movies like today’s choice actually have a very sweet innocent tone but they are set in a scary world.
That said, let’s talk about Corpse Bride. This is a really fun ghost story told with stop motion animation and in a mostly black and white Victorian world. Our main character is Victor who is being forced by his parents to marry a woman named Victoria, who is also being forced into the arranged marriage.
However, the two betrothed meet and find they like each other and don’t mind getting married. Unfortunately, Victor gets nervous and goes into the forest to practice his vows. In so doing he puts a ring on what he thinks is a twig but in actuality it is a woman in spiritual limbo named Emily, or in other words- the Corpse Bride.
With a ring on her finger Emily thinks her and Victor are married and swoops him off to the Spirit World where we get a terrific song called Remains of the Day. I love how in the Spirit World the colors are more vibrant, even fluorescent in hue. It feels like a different world than the Victorian one we’ve seen so far.
Victor of course still loves Victoria and he doesn’t know how to get himself out of the situation. Emily also is a sweet soul who has the best of intentions but also gets her feelings hurt quite easily. They are pretty well developed characters for this type of film.
The story is somewhat predictable but the visuals are so lovely creating a scary yet fun mood. The cinematography by Pete Kozachik moves through the city feels effortless and smooth. He even came up with a new way to use digital still cameras when filming stop motion. There also aren’t any dead zones where I am bored or wondering what is going to happen. I think that is the good thing about stop motion animation- it is so laborious to do there are rarely any wasted scenes.
My favorite part of the movie is the great Danny Elfman music. He is particularly good at packing exposition into the songs while still making them catchy and easy to sing along too. As I said, I particularly like Remains of the Day but Tears to Shed, According to Plan and The Wedding Song are all beautiful. I also think Victor’s Piano Solo is one of the best instrumental solos I’ve ever heard in a movie.
Overall it is a satisfying ghost story with a nice heart to it, beautiful visuals, and great music. I would be curious to know how your kids react to it and if it is too scary for them. Please put it in the comments what they think and if you have any suggestions for picks I could use in upcoming weeks I would love to hear. Let’s get some comments going!