"Find hungry samurai" -Gisaku



My friend Bogart has two young kids, and is trying to write a novel to boot, so I told him I’d help out by taking a look at some scary movies that he as well as his children might enjoy. This obligated me to try out both CORPSE BRIDE and CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT.


I have to admit I’ve never been the biggest Tim Burton fan. Looking at his IMDB page, I see that I did enjoy PEE WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE and BATMAN, and to a lesser extent EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, BATMAN RETURNS and MARS ATTACKS. But those were all movies I saw when I was younger, more easily impressed. I don’t know what I’d think of them now. In recent years I haven’t managed to make myself get excited and go see SLEEPY HOLLOW, BIG FISH or CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY. I feel like should appreciate Tim Burton. He has this strange lopsided gleeful look at life that is probably quite similar to my own. Maybe that’s why I can’t ever seem to get into him.

Part of the reason I had no interest in CORPSE BRIDE is that I’d never seen NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. I figured I better watch that first, so I’d have some knowledge when talking about Tim Burton and stop-action animation.

Both films are about the same. What I mean by that is that if you liked the first Burton film, you’ll almost certainly like the second. (And vice-versa.) Both exist in their own world with different rules and colorful characters. Actually, in a weird way, both are very much like the Disney films of the early ‘90s, right down to both being musicals!

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS tells us the story of a town called Halloween. Jack Skellington—the Pumpkin King—has lost his taste for scaring kids on the one night the town prepares for all year. He happens to stumble into a forest with doorways to each of the enchanted lands, and picks one with a lighted tree. There he finds “Christmas Town,” where everyone is gearing up for their own day, but seem very cheerful and happy about it.

Jack is instantly convinced that this is what his town needs: to take over Christmas. It’s a sweet idea, actually, as you can imagine some of the pitfalls that occur. (Or maybe you can’t.) The concept would probably be better suited to an hour-long TV special, as it sort of drags at times, but the ending is sweet and the characters are mostly lovable.

CORPSE BRIDE is based on an old Russian tale. Viktor is so shy and self-effacing that he needs practice for his wedding vows on the morrow. He just happens to be walking in the dark woods, where of course he’s able to put the ring on a tree branch and recite his lines perfectly.

Except, it’s not a tree branch. It’s the skeletal finger of Emily, who died on her wedding night, and takes this new situation very seriously; which is to say she now considers the two of them married.

We’ve seen many comedies about people from two different families. He’s rich. She’s poor. She’s Catholic. He’s Jewish. He’s alive…and Corpse Bride, as the title might have clued you into, is most definitely dead.

Both films work for what they’re trying to do. They’re scary, but shouldn’t be overly so. I would say kids 5 or 6 will be scared but should handle it fine as long as a parent goes too. As for those of you concerned about occult matters, give it a rest. Burton uses these “scary” ideas as merely a starting point to tell his story. In fact, the inhabitants of Halloween, and especially all the dead people in CORPSE BRIDE, are so lovable that I defy even James Dobson to have problems with them. (Of course, if anyone at Paramount had an ounce of marketing sense they’d have come up with a better title than CORPSE BRIDE, but then again, that wouldn’t be Tim Burton.)

Both films contain lots of songs, like I said, which are fun to watch and pretty forgettable. I doubt you’ll be singing any later that day. The voice-work is actually better in NIGHTMARE, so for those of you wanting to see CORPSE BRIDE just for Johnny Depp, that’d be a waste of time. There’s only one voice in animated history that’d be worth seeing a movie just for him, and there ain’t no genies here. Both films are colorful, imaginative and bursting at the seams in every frame with ideas and little things going on. In short, NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS would make a fine rental for the kids, and CORPSE BRIDE should entertain at the theatre.

As for people who don’t have kids, I make no promises. I enjoyed both movies fine, but certainly seek them out on my own. The best barometer is to go back up and take a look at the list of Tim Burton’s films. If those are some films you simply love, you’re probably on safe ground.


I really knew next to nothing about Wallace and Gromit. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I thought they had something to do with Davey and Goliath.

Consider me Schooled.

Wallace and Gromit have had three previous short films, and now they bust out of the gate with their first feature length movie. While the Tim Burton films would be fine for kids, if you really love them this is the movie you’ll want to look into.

Wallace is an inventor, a kind gentle man. Gromit is his dog, much more intelligent and responsible. (The closest relationship I can think of is Inspector Gadget and Brain.) Wallace and Gromit run Anti-Pesto, humanely ridding the town of the scourge that is rabbits.

[Side note: given my philosophical and political beliefs, when I found out they were doing away with rabbits I perked right up.]

The reason the rabbits are unwanted is because they feast on prize vegetables, the same ones the towns folk have been entering in an annual contest for the last 516 years. I’m not going to tell you any more of the plot other than obviously things go wrong, and the title should give you a hint in what capacity.

What makes Wallace and Gromit so delightful to watch is their simple humanity. Gromit doesn’t speak, but his eyes tell amazing stories. These two are possibly the nicest animated characters of all time. You could be a simpering 12 year old girl or someone as hard-hearted as my buddy Ajax; you’re flat-out going to love and root for these two. Guaranteed.

CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT is endlessly inventive. The filmmakers are British, so they go for the more understated humor, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. The closer you watch the more you’ll be cracking up. There’s a woman who wears a giant Cheeto on her head. I’m not sure why, but I’m pretty sure I now want her. There’s a cotton-candy tumbleweed. An Aerial dogfight with bumper cars. And on and on and on.

Then there’s the rabbits. I haven’t seen cuter bunnies this side of Hef’s Grotto. (Groan.) Seriously, they are beyond precious. You’ll want to adopt four of five (dozen) and go on the road in a traveling circus.

I don’t know how to convey what a wonder CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT is, other than to say how shocked I was to love it to pieces. If you have young ones, this is the movie to see. Even if you don’t, it’d make a great foray to the theatre. Guys: are you looking for a date movie? Skip THE FOG and take her to see this. You’ll be rewarded.

I’m astounded to be writing this sentence, but this is one of the best movies of the year.

October 14, 2005


Ajax said...

First, it hurts me that you went to see Corpse Bride without me. As I recall, I asked well in advance, but instead some other guy (hussy) gets the nod... And this is after you stood me up for Serenity... (sob, sob, wet nose-blow, sob).

And you wonder why I'm hard-hearted with this sort of treatment? ;-)

Jeff Travis Henderson said...

I agree. I was unbelieveably surprised by how good Wallace and Gromit was.

Bogart said...

Thanks Hypie! I'll haul the boys off to the theater ASAP!